Because green crime does pay, the European Commission is set to propose that the 27 EU states sit up and take it seriously. According to estimates cited by Interpol, environmental crime generates more than 20 billion euros per year for criminal syndicates around the world: Through highly profitable trafficking of hazardous waste; illegal importation of dangerous material for recycling; or dumping oil from ships. (Companies that take the costly legal way are at an economic disadvantage.)
Communities are poisoned by pollutants in water supplies; Wildlife officers are murdered by poachers… The Commission wants to punish intentional actions or wrong-doing where people are killed or seriously injured with minimum jail sentences as long as ten years, and fines of up to 1.5 million euros.
Concerted EU legislation against abusive shipping practises was introduced after 1999, when the structurally uncertain Maltese tanker, Erika, broke in two in international waters, off the French coast, spilling its cargo of heavy fuel. The law packages dubbed Erika I, II and III were slow to be put into force by the EU states. But single-hull tankers were banned from EU ports, then from coastal zones.
Inspection rules were tightened, and ship owners, crews, and classification societies moved closer to becoming liable in cases of harm caused to the environment. And yet many of the security measures are still in discussion. The Commission is due to adopt the latest proposal this Friday. It says that EU states’ diverse measures are impotent in the face of a rise in “green crimes”. For national laws to be overridden, however, EU member states and the European Parliament must approve the directive.