Yesterday, a TAIEX-EIR multi-country flagship workshop on Environmental Compliance and Governance took place as part of our engagement in the auspices of the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum.
The objective of the event was to raise awareness on combating environmental crime and on the proposal for a new Environmental Crime Directive as well as to collect views from academia and practitioners for the further work necessary.
Furthermore, exchanges on the Flagship 5 of the Zero Pollution Action Plan explored ways for future collaboration between environmental inspection and enforcement authorities with authorities with similar functions in other areas. The aim was to discuss possible concrete cooperation activities to help enhance consistency of enforcement efforts cross policy areas.
- fight against crime | environmental protection | pollution
Council partial general approach achieved during the French Presidency concerning Articles 2-4 including amendments to the Commission proposal proposed by the Member States in the relevant Council Working Group.
Zero Pollution Action Plan (COM(2021)400)
The participants agreed that the Commission’s proposal for a new Environmental Crime Directive is ambitious and includes provisions to improve the legal framework on combating environmental crime. The debates showed the usefulness of provisions on strengthening the enforcement chain, protection of environmental defenders and deterrent sanctions. Attention was drawn to a possible need for further refinements (for instance in relation to assessment of environmental damage) to ensure that the new Directive helps tackle environmental crimes effectively. There was an agreement on the need for higher imprisonment and monetary sanctions in order to ensure deterrent fines and enable enforcers to use effective enforcement tools. The importance of complementary sanctions in the toolkit, such as permit withdrawal, was underlined. There was a consensus that it is necessary to require that perpetrators remediate environmental damage. The need for more and better targeted training and enforcer specialisation was stressed. The importance of more systematic data collection, use and sharing to identify trends in environmental crime and allow better targeting of resources to tackle it was highlighted. Concerning environmental damage as a threshold for environmental crimes, enforcers strongly advised to pay particular attention not to raise the bar unnecessarily and not to complicate such assessment. They warned that a wrong balance can have very negative impact on effective enforcement.
Discussion also aimed to facilitate the sharing of experience and best practices among Member States in a participatory approach on ways to ensure and strengthen cross-sectorial compliance actions on the ground towards zero tolerance for pollution as part of the implementation of Flagship 5. The discussion between experts and practitioners identified some key priority sectors for stepped up enforcement, such as agriculture, waste shipment, chemicals and pharmaceuticals production, addressing key remaining sources of air pollution, including in cities close to port areas. Underground noise was also identified as part of the needed innovation in the design and operation of the cleaner ships of the future. Participants stressed the need for more training, better sharing of key policy developments, better integration of cutting-end technologies (e.g. earth observation, artificial intelligence), better interoperability of relevant databases, including enhanced interaction with Europol, to assist cross-border enforcement actions, not least given the structural inadequacy of human resources allocated to environmental enforcement. The enforcement relevance of the bi-yearly Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Report, whose first edition will be presented during an ad hoc High Level Conference next 14th December 2022 was stressed as well.
The event took place as part of our engagement in the auspices of the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum.
It was organized in the framework of a peer-learning tool for environment authorities (TAIEX - Environmental Implementation Review) and attended by around 115 high-level officials from environment ministries and other enforcement authorities from all EU Member States.
High-level experts from European Environmental Enforcement Networks such as the EU Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL), the European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE), EnviCrimeNet, the EU Forum of Judges for the Environment (EUFJE), Europol as well as representatives from academia and Member States gave their viewpoint and presented good practice examples. Commission speakers included officials from DG ENV, DG JUST and DG NEAR.
The Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum was established as a high-level Commission Expert Group by Commission Decision C(2018)10 at the same time as the adoption of the Commission's Action Plan on environmental compliance assurance - see COM (2018)10. The Forum serves as a platform for strategic exchanges with Member States and networks of environmental enforcement professionals on environmental governance issues, including combating environmental crime. The Forum is composed of representatives of Member States and representatives of European networks of compliance assurance practitioners and authorities.