WCS EU Response to the Roadmap: Evaluation of the Environmental Crime Directive
WCS EU welcomes this roadmap and the proposal to evaluate the Environmental Crime Directive. Tackling wildlife trafficking has become a high priority for the EU and its Member States, as highlighted by the EU Agenda on Security 2016-2020, the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking adopted in 2016, and the increasing amount of overseas development aid dedicated to fighting wildlife trafficking in partner countries. However, the EU’s efforts to promote the issue globally are not being matched by efforts to tackle wildlife crime within the EU.
We fully concur with the statements laid out in the section A of the roadmap, and we agree that the evaluation of the Environmental Crime Directive should focus on waste- and wildlife crime. Wildlife trafficking constitutes one of the most immediate threats to biodiversity in many parts of the world. Wildlife is being bought and sold across the globe on an increasingly large scale as multiple commodities, including pets, food, medicine, furs, feathers, curios, and skins. The EU has an important role to play in addressing wildlife trafficking, as it constitutes a destination market, a hub for trafficking in transit to other parts of the world, as well as the source region for illegal trade in some species. A recent UN Environment - Interpol report concluded that environmental crime constitutes a threat to peace and security, and often converges with other serious crimes such as corruption, cybercrime and financial crime (1).
The revision of the EU Environmental Crime Directive is essential as it is currently insufficient to effectively address wildlife crimes. Low rates of prosecution and penalties make environmental crime a high-profit, low risk activity for criminal groups. This is compounded by the lack of financial and human resources to tackle environmental crime in many Member States. The EU needs to update its legislation to bring it in line with the 2014 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) declaration (2), of which the EU and its Member States are signatories, and which calls on countries to treat wildlife and forest crimes as serious criminal offences. The EU must use financial investigation and anti-money laundering techniques to combat wildlife crime.
While we have been encouraged by the role the EU has taken in tackling this issue to date, we call on the Commission to fulfil the commitments it has made in this area, and to fully review and revise the EU Environmental Crime Directive. We urge the Commission to release the report on the contribution of criminal law to the fight against environmental crime (3), which was expected in 2018, and to take it into account in the evaluation of the Directive. Precise information and data on prosecution rates, enforcement capacity, and penalties, in EU Member States are necessary in order to adequately evaluate the Directive.
We welcome the public consultation outlined in section B of the roadmap and request that the Commission develops a full and comprehensive consultation, with relevant questions that are easily understandable by the public to gain a full picture of the current challenges and gaps in the Environmental Crime Directive. We also call on the Commission to engage with local, national, and international NGOs with considerable expertise on the issue.
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