Environmental crimes contribute to armed conflicts
Recent Interpol data estimates that illegal exploitation of natural resources, be it poaching, logging or mining, finances 38% of international armed conflicts. Furthermore, waste trafficking and wildlife crimes are identified by Europol as among the most significant threats to the security of the European Union, which loses up to €3 billion annually from the illegal trade in protected species alone.
EU Green Prosecutor widely supported
In a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions (PETI) and Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), many MEPs, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, Europol and non-governmental organisations expressed their support for the establishment of a European Green Prosecutor. Since 2021, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, “took note with great interest” of this proposal. To offer environmental protection and fight crimes is one of EU’s priorities. She said that measures taken at European level have so far had “limited effect”. Thus, this kind of initiatives are more than welcomed.
However, the establishment of a European Green Prosecutor is running up against a heavy bureaucratic process at the European level. The proponent of this new structure to fight environmental crimes is Vlad Gheorghe, USR MEP and lawyer. MEP Gheorghe is previously known for taking the initiative to create a similar law in Romania in 2018 (DNA-ul pădurilor):
“Let’s not forget that the European Public Prosecutor’s Office emerged as an idea in 2007. Then, in 2013 the founding regulation was proposed. However, it was only in 2017 that 16 Member States, including Romania, launched the enhanced cooperation on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Finally, the institution became operational only in June 2021 and it activates only in 22 Member States. The speed of climate change and the amount of money being lost to criminals who do not hesitate to destroy the environment leave us no time to repeat this incredibly slow procedure”, says the MEP.
Proposal – European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to cover environmental crimes
Vlad Gheorghe and Renew Europe MEPs have proposed as early as July 2021 to extend the mandate of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to cover environmental crimes.
“In the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets we have also supported increase in the number of prosecutors employed in the Public Prosecutor’s Office headed by Laura Codruța Kövesi. Additionally, we agreed on a budget increase. The EPPO cannot prosecute hundreds of corruption cases with damages of over €5 billion without adequate funding. If we look at the recent work of the Prosecutor’s Office, which has resulted in indictments of former prime ministers and ministers from EU member states, we can understand the reluctance to provide the institution led by Kövesi with the necessary resources,” says Vlad Gheorghe.
According to Europol, environmental crimes remain largely unreported and uninvestigated at European level by national authorities. This offences lead to irreversible loss of biodiversity, natural resources and often even loss of life. Recently, in Romania 6 foresters have been killed by wood thieves and over 800 activists and journalists have been assaulted.