Europol notes an explosion of environmental crimes. Specialists are needed in national institutions

European countries do not correctly and completely report environmental crimes to Europol. However, the representatives of the European Agency have noticed an exponential increase in them in recent years. From 14 cases of violations of environmental legislation in 2016 to over 800 investigations in 2020.

“A problem is also the lack of specialists on environmental crime in the Member States. Those in the current structures are either too busy or are not prepared to investigate such facts at a competent level and, implicitly, to report them and ask for help from Europol “, explains Vlad Gheorghe, USRPLUS MEP who proposed in 2019 the establishment of a DNA of forests in Romania.

“In the discussions with Europol representatives, they emphasized the attitude of national and local authorities towards environmental crime as a factor which does not allow a complete and correct picture of their size in the EU. As for Romania, Europol has not even received one notification regarding illegal logging from the Romanian authorities in recent years, but it collaborates very well in cross-border investigations on illegal waste “, Gheorghe underlines.

Enormous costs and loss of life

In fact, waste trafficking and wildlife crime are identified by EUROPOL in the recently published SOCTA analysis as the most important threats to the security of the European Union regarding environmental crime. The Union loses up to € 3 billion a year in illicit trade of protected species alone. And globally, environmental crime totals more than $ 258 billion each year.

“Let’s not forget the costs in human lives that non-compliance with environmental legislation produces. It is estimated that more than 450 000 deaths in the Union are caused annually by pollution. Moreover, in Romania, from 2014 to 2019, 6 foresters were killed. Plus another 650 violent attacks on environmental activists and forest workers, ” adds Vlad Gheorghe.

“That is why we have called for the establishment of a Green Prosecutor at European level. It can be within the European Public Prosecutor’s Office headed by Laura Codruța Kövesi or as an independent institution. It is important to make sure that we fight effectively against this serious threat posed by environmental crime. Given the figures presented by Europol on this type of crime, the Green Prosecutor seems all the more necessary. That is why I am confident that it will receive the institutional support to become a reality in the coming years “, said the USRPLUS MEP.

Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in the fight against cross-border crime, which is considered a significant threat to the internal security of the Union and its citizens. From organized fraud and money laundering, to human trafficking and cybercrime, the European agency collaborates with its counterparts at national level in over 18,000 investigations annually. The latest Europol SOCTA analysis was published in April 2021.

Read the full press release.