Friday

27th May 2016

EU court delivers blow on environment sanctions

  • 51 percent of EU waste shipments in 2005 found to be illegal (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission's hope of doling out specific criminal penalties for those who pollute the environment have been dealt a blow by the EU's highest court.

The European Court of Justice in a ruling on Tuesday (23 October) reiterated its landmark finding of two years ago that the commission can oblige member states to introduce common penalties for environmental pollution - in this case ship pollution - but closed the door to Brussels on one key issue.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It said that the commission may not determine what criminal sanctions should be introduced for different environment crimes in member states.

"(...) contrary to the submission of the Commission, the determination of the type and level of the criminal penalties to be applied does not fall within the Community's sphere of competence," reads the crucial paragraph.

Inside the environment department of the commission there is strong disappointment with the ruling.

An official explained that the ruling has profound implications for a controversial piece of legislation proposed by Brussels earlier this year under which certain environment crimes such as unlawful treatment of waste or unlawful possession of protected wild plants and animals should be treated as a criminal offence.

The punishment ranged from one to ten years in prison.

The proposal is currently going through the first stages of the Brussels legislative process with member states already objecting to the sanctions clause. Now with the court ruling, the official said that the proposal will probably proceed without the section on specific penalties.

"I would liken it to a cat that does not have its teeth and claws ... a paper tiger," said the official.

The law, proposed in February, came as a reaction to the outrage sparked last year when EU toxic waste dumped from a tanker killed people on the Ivory Coast.

At the time environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said that the Ivory Coast incident was just the "tip of the iceberg" with 51 percent of EU waste shipments in 2005 found to be illegal.

"Member states have very different ways of punishing environmental pollution," said the commission official, so things are done in the country "where there are least sanctions."

The other alternative for the commission is to "start all over again with the law" but this "would take ages", said the official.

However, environmental officials have not given up all hope. They are already looking ahead to the new Reform Treaty, which may be in place by 2009.

Under this new set of EU rules, the commission would have a basis for proposing such a law again, said the official.

Reacting to the court judgement, Green MEPs were more positive.

"We welcome today's ruling, which confirms an earlier ruling on the community-wide nature of environmental crime," said a statement from the Greens in the European Parliament.

"We hope Member States will introduce penalties, which reflect the gravity of environmental crimes to public health and the environment," it continued.

Nato mulls use of new drones near Libya

EUobserver has learned Nato may send powerful new drones near the Libyan coast should it receive permission from Libya's new unity government.

News in Brief

  1. Syrian refugees sue Denmark over immigration law
  2. Ukraine bans Gorbachev for backing Crimea's seizure
  3. Dozens dead in two shipwrecks outside Libya
  4. Slovak PM says his country is no place for Muslims
  5. Juncker's spin-doctor warns of populist 'horror'
  6. EU urges Hungary to end discrimination of Roma children
  7. Majority of voters think UK will stay in EU
  8. Leading MEP says Greek bailout will not work

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAEducation and Training 2020 - Giving Young People the Workplace Skills They Need
  2. EPSUTrade Unions Back New Undeclared Work Platform
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCould targeting children’s fitness boost academic performance?
  4. World VisionDeclares the World Humanitarian Summit a Positive Step in a Longer Journey to Ending Need
  5. EJCPresident Dr. Moshe Kantor on Brexit and the Jewish Question
  6. Swedish EnterprisesNew rules for posted workers - Better Protection or the End of Posting ?
  7. World VisionWhy The EU Needs to Put Children at the Centre of Emergencies - In Their Words
  8. ACCASustainability Reporting in Danger of Losing Its Momentum Says ACCA and CDSB
  9. Dialogue PlatformDiversity as Heritage of Humanity! Join the “Colors of the World“ Show at the EP
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersNew Responses to the Basque Peace Process? MEP Juaristi on Stateless Challenges Conference
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceImproving Cardiovascular Health Begins by Closing the Gap in Sex Disparities
  12. IPHRBrussels Talks to Take Stock of Human Rights in Turkmenistan

Latest News

  1. EU and US threaten to increase Russia sanctions
  2. Nato mulls use of new drones near Libya
  3. Why countries are not rushing to join Putin's union
  4. G7 warns Brexit could hurt global growth
  5. Perceptions over South China Sea dispute are simply wrong
  6. Tech companies eye opportunites in refugee crisis
  7. EU commission reshuffles car emissions expert
  8. Poland's economy feels the heat of rule of law talks