EU Mechanism for environmental crimes. USRPLUS MEP Vlad Gheorghe proposes to the European Commission to set up a European structure to investigate environmental crimes in Member States.
The initiative is motivated by the killing of a 17-year-old brown bear in Covasna county in Romania by Prince Josef-Emanuel of Liechtenstein during a trophy hunt on 13 March 2021.
The crime is all the more serious as the bear (Arthur, monitored by NGOs) lived in a Natura 2000 site. It belonged to a species protected both locally and at European level by the Habitats Directive. This makes hunting a violation of Romania’s and the EU’s environmental obligations, says Vlad Gheorghe’s request to the European Commission.
The USRPLUS MEP points out that currently the implementation of European provisions on environmental crime is cumbersome and often fails to bring the perpetrators (natural or legal persons) to justice from Member States other than the one in which the crime took place.
The creation of a common EU mechanism would allow effective cross-border prevention and prosecution of environmental crimes.
This is why Vlad Gheorghe called on the European Commission to:
● extend the mandate of the European Environment Agency to give it the power to investigate environmental crimes;
● extend the mandate of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and give it the power to prosecute environmental and biodiversity crimes;
● strengthen the cross-border enforceability of EU environmental law by harmonising Member States’ criminal law through concrete proposals.
“Crimes against wildlife significantly damage the environment. This causes irreparable losses for each of us and especially for future generations. They will no longer benefit from the natural heritage we have and do not value. Habitat degradation and loss and wildlife crime are the two major threats to biodiversity. Both activities are extremely profitable for criminals. As we have seen in the case of the Arthur bear, this type of crime often has a cross-border aspect, which is why we need to intervene at EU level, as we did in the case of corruption through the European Public Prosecutor’s Office headed by Laura Codruța Kövesi,” stresses Vlad Gheorghe.
Since 2008, Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law requires EU countries to introduce effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for these types of crimes committed intentionally or as a result of serious negligence. This includes offences such as illegal trapping and poaching; illegal pest control; illegal killing (for sport) of protected species; illegal collection of eggs and taxidermy, illegal trade in protected species and illegal destruction of a protected habitat.