Environmental protection by criminal law

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After lengthy discussions and constitutional struggles that were to be resolved by the ECJ, the EU, with effect from 2010, disposes of a legal framework on environmental crime.

International law

Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law of 4.11.1998 (ETS No. 172). From EU-Member States ratified by Estonia. Signed by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania and Sweden. From EEA-Member States signed by Iceland.

EU ratification

Not applicable

European law

Directive 2008/99/EC of 19.11.2008 on the protection of the environment through criminal law. OJ L 328, 6.12.2008, p. 28. Full text (PDF format)

(annulled) Council Framework Decision 2003/80/JHA of 27.1.2003 on the protection of the environment through criminal law. OJ L 29, 5.2.2003, p. 55. Full text (PDF format)

Case before the European Court of Justice (ECJ)

Case C-176/03, Commission v. Council ECR [2005] I-7879.

Statements of EU Institutions

Commission 27.10.2011:
IP/11/1246 “Environmental crimes: Commission requests 3 Member States to adopt EU anti-sea pollution rules”

Commission 16.6.2011:
IP/11/739 “Environmental crimes: Commission asks 12 Member States to implement EU rules”

Council 14.9.2009:
PRES/09/265 “Council adopts new legislation against ship-source pollution”

Commission 16.10.2008:
IP/08/1536 “Maritime safety: the Commission acts against the United Kingdom”

Commission 26.6.2008:
IP/08/1028 “Maritime safety: the Commission takes measures against Italy and Slovakia”

Commission 11.3.2008:
IP/08/420 “The European Commission streamlines rules on protection in case of maritime pollution”

Commission 11.3.2008
MEMO/08/156 “Questions and Answers on criminal law measures against maritime pollution”

ECJ 12.11.2007:
CJE/07/76 “The European Community is competent to oblige the member states to provide for common criminal penalties in order to combat ship-source pollution”

Commission 29.3.2007:
IP/07/442 “New EU rules to crack down on sea pollution come into effect”

Commission 9.2.2007:
MEMO/07/50 “Questions and Answers on the protection of the environment through criminal law”

Commission 24.11.2005:
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implications of the Court’s judgment of 13.9.2005
COM(2005) 583 final

Commission 23.11.2005:
MEMO/05/437 “Commission welcomes Court of Justice judgment recognising the exclusive competence of the Community to adopt criminal law measures to ensure the effectiveness of Community law”

Commission 11.7.2005:
IP/05/888 “New EU rules to sanction maritime polluters”

Commission 11.7.2005:
MEMO/05/244 “Q&A on the new legislation on ship source pollution”

EESC 19.6.2003:
Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the “Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of sanctions, including criminal sanctions, for pollution offences” (COM(2003) 92 final)
OJ C 220, 16.9.2003, p. 72

Council 2.5.2003:
Proposal for a Council Framework Decision to strengthen the criminal-law framework for the enforcement of the law against ship-source pollution, COM(2003) 227 final of 2.5.2003.

Commission 31.3.2003:
IP/03/461 “Protection of the environment through criminal law: Commission decides to take action in the Court of Justice”

Commission 5.3.2003:
IP/03/316 “The Commission proposes criminal sanctions for polluting ships”

European Parliament 15.11.2001: European Parliament recommendation on criminal sanctions and Community law. OJ C 140 E, 13.6.2002, p. 524

Commission 13.3.2001:
IP/01/358 “Commission will support Member States in the fight against environmental crime”.

Member States

Initiative of the Kingdom of Denmark with a view to adopting a Council framework Decision on combating serious environmental crime.
OJ C 39, 11.2.2000, p. 4

Written Questions by Members of the European Parliament (rule 117)

Written Question E-6260/07 by Frank Vanhecke: “Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law” with answer by Commission Dimas of 13.2.2008

Written Question P-4368/07 by Georgios Papastamkos: “Protection of the environment through criminal law and arson attacks on forests” with answer by Commissioner Dimas of 12.10.2007

Written Question E-0720/06 by Erik Meijer: “Effects of a European Court of Justice environmental law judgment in giving the EU influence over national criminal law in a way that deviates from previous interpretations” with answer by Commissioner Frattini of 6.4.2006

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