“Only the rapier of the law can have a really dissuasive effect” on Green Crime in the European Union. This from the bloc’s Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot comes as the EU approved measures to make acts such as dumping toxic waste or illegally transporting hazardous materials a criminal offence. Oil spillers might not in future get off as lightly as in the case of the Erika, ordered to pay 375,000 euros in clean-up compensation.
The law obliges the EU’s 27 member states to treat and punish as criminal acts nine offences, ranging from harming protected species to unlawful trade in ozone-depleting substances. But environmentalists are not happy with the move. They doubt it will have much impact, because it does not set uniform, pan-EU sanctions.
EU states have up to two years to start enforcing the legislation. But the EU’s top court says the bloc can not tell the EU governments what punishments to impose. Brussels originally suggested imprisoning offenders for five to 10 years, and fines of more than a million euros for companies involved.