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Slovenian Presidency reaches agreement on Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law

Within the EU Council and under the co-decision procedure with the European Parliament, the Slovenian Presidency has succeeded in reaching agreement at first reading on the Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law. “The adoption of the Directive is a great success for the Slovenian Presidency, as well as for the Member States and the European Parliament. Consensus on this exacting legislative act has already been achieved, at first reading. The adoption of the Directive is very important as it represents the first legislative act under the first pillar which contains penal provisions and, thus, provides a model for the instruments which will follow,” said Slovenian Justice Minister, EU Justice and Home Affairs Council President Lovro Šturm.

The discussion on the proposal for a Directive was launched under the German Presidency of the EU Council and continued during the Portuguese Presidency. The Slovenian Presidency stepped up the intensity of work on the proposal, giving some impetus to the discussion of content and succeeding in reaching consensus among the Member States on the fundamental issues of the proposal. “We are all the more satisfied with the outcome, given that, in the judicial area, moving discussions on the Directive forward was identified as a Presidency priority,” commented Dr Šturm.

The Directive regulates the protection of the environment through criminal law and significantly contributes to the more effective implementation of environmental protection policy at EU level. The Directive provides that, among other activities, the following acts can be considered criminal offences in the area of environmental protection:

  • illegal disposal of radioactive substances and illegal waste management, in particular waste transport, where these activities result, or may result, in death or serious injuries of people, or considerable deterioration in the condition of air, soil and water, or where they are detrimental to animals or plants;
  • illegal operation of production plants pursuing hazardous activities, likely to have similar effects;
  • illegal slaughter or destruction of protected animals and plants, illegal trafficking in protected animals and plants or parts thereof, as well as any illegal action, resulting in deterioration of habitat within a protected district;
  • illegal production and use of substances that deplete the ozone layer.

Addressing both natural and legal persons, the Directive also provides that the criminal penalties imposed for such criminal offences should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. These provisions are in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

The adoption of the Directive is particularly important because of the Court’s decision to annul the Framework Decision on the protection of the environment on the grounds that it had been adopted on an erroneous legal basis, although, content-wise, it regulated the same area. The annulment of the Framework Decision resulted in a legal vacuum, which necessitated the prompt adoption of the Directive.

The proposal for a Directive was adopted at first reading under the co-decision procedure with the European Parliament. The EU Council reached agreement today at the level of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). The Directive was also today confirmed by a vote of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The EU Council is to formally confirm the Directive shortly.

The Slovenian Presidency regards combating environmental crime as a priority. At the beginning of April, it launched discussions on a proposal for a Directive on the prevention of marine pollution by vessels.


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Date: 23.05.2008