Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan

06/19/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2024 08:37

EU Statement at UNTOC Working Group of Government Experts on Technical Assistance, Vienna, 3- 4 June 2024

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EU Statement at UNTOC Working Group of Government Experts on Technical Assistance, Vienna, 3- 4 June 2024

Chair,

The European Union welcomes this discussion, which is timely for us as the EU on 11 April adopted new legislation on environmental crimes which entered into force on 20 May.

The EU Directive is a key achievement and represents a milestone in the fight against environmental crime in the EU.

We have seen that the previous EU Directive from 2008 was not sufficiently effective to make a real impact on the ground. In practice, there are still too few environmental crimes brought to justice and sanctions imposed are often too low to be dissuasive.

The new EU Directive represents an important game changer. Let me briefly present its four pillars:

  1. The new Directive provides for new offences such as illegal timber trade, illegal ship recycling, or illicit trade in fluorinated greenhouse gases.

Also, the definition of the crime categories has been reviewed and updated and a comprehensive list of environmental crimes added in the new Directive.

Moreover, the aspect of significant environmental damage has been clarified. The Directive provides criteria such as the severity of the damage, the spread of the damage, the reversibility or the duration of the damage which will help the interpretation of the notion across EU Member States.

  1. Similar types and levels of sanctions for natural and legal persons will apply across the EU which will help ensure a more consistent application and enhance the deterrent effect. Offences which lead to the destruction of or widespread and substantial damage to an ecosystem which is irreversible or long-lasting, will constitute qualified criminal offences with higher penalties. Causing particular damages to the environment can also be considered as an aggravating circumstance.

In addition, illegal profits and gains can be frozen and confiscated.

  1. A strong focus lies on the practical implementation and on strengthening the law enforcement chain. To help enforcement work in practice, national authorities will be charged to develop a strategic approach to ensure a strong response to criminal behaviours. Practitioners working on the ground, including police, prosecutors and judges should benefit from sufficient resources and appropriate training as well as effective investigation tools for enforcement, coordination, cooperation and data collection.
  1. Finally, given that environmental crimes is a complex global phenomenon which does not stop at the border, the new Directive will facilitate cooperation and coordination between authorities of EU Member States, also involving EU agencies such as Europol, Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor's Office.

Experience has shown that in those EU Member States where specialised investigation and prosecution services and or specialised environmental courts have been established, the number of successfully completed investigations is increasing.

Finally, a real change can only be achieved when we act together. With its new Directive, the EU has signalled its readiness to step up efforts to fight environmental crime by establishing an ambitious legal framework.

The EU strongly supports the international efforts aiming at criminalising the environmental offences.

Finally, let me refer to the ongoing negotiation on a new convention of the Council of Europe on the protection of the environment through criminal law. The process has reached its final phase and the EU and its Member States are actively engaged. We encourage the successful conclusion of these negotiations.

Furthermore, in the field of international cooperation, the EU supports the capacity building efforts of UNODC to help countries to combat crimes that affect the environment.

Chair,

Regarding the proposed recommendations, we subscribe to those identified by UNODC in its report. We encourage all parties to use the tools offered by the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime to develop or amend national legislation in relation to crimes that affect the environment and to make full use of this legal instrument.

We would also like to recommend that Member States should provide specialised regular training to those in charge of detecting, investigating, prosecuting or adjudicating environmental crime. Member States should also consider assigning specialised investigation and prosecution services or specialised judges to effectively deal with environmental crimes.

Thank you, Chair.