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European Commission proposes criminalizing environmental offenses

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] proposed Friday that all EU member nations criminalize serious environmental offenses and impose minimum sanctions for violations. Commission Vice President for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini [official profile] said [press release] the proposed directive [Q/A] would prevent environmental criminals from exploiting discrepancies between member states' criminal law systems. The directive would have all EU members treat offenses that seriously harm humans or the environment as so-called green crimes [Commission materials] if committed intentionally or with gross negligence. Listed offenses include illegal shipment of waste and trade in endangered species or ozone-depleting materials, punishable by at least 5 years in prison and corporate fines of up to 750,000 euros (US $975,000). Timothy Kirkhope [official website], the British Conservative leader in the European Parliament [official website], criticized the proposed directive as a "significant transfer of power to the commission" that "sets an alarming precedent."

The proposed directive is intended to replace a 2003 framework decision [PDF text] by the European Council [official website], which comprises the EU heads of state. The commission, the EU's executive branch, challenged that s framework decision in the European Court of Justice [official website], which issued a judgment [text; press release, PDF] annulling the decision in 2005 because it encroached on the EU's powers [JURIST report] conferred by the EC Treaty [text]. Earlier this week, the commission unveiled a mandatory emissions strategy [JURIST report] that would impose mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) limits on all cars by 2012. BBC News has more.

This report was prepared in partnership with the Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law.

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