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2021/0422(COD) Protection of the environment through criminal law
Next event: Indicative plenary sitting date 2024/02/26

Progress: Awaiting Parliament's position in 1st reading

RoleCommitteeRapporteurShadows
Lead JURI MANDERS Antonius (icon: EPP EPP) ROBERTI Franco (icon: S&D S&D), CICUREL Ilana (icon: Renew Renew), TOUSSAINT Marie (icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE), JORON Virginie (icon: ID ID), BUXADÉ VILLALBA Jorge (icon: ECR ECR), AUBRY Manon (icon: GUE/NGL GUE/NGL)
Committee Opinion DEVE ROOSE Caroline (icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE) Charles GOERENS (icon: RE RE), Beata KEMPA (icon: ECR ECR), Pierfrancesco MAJORINO (icon: S&D S&D), Antoni COMÍN I OLIVERES (icon: NA NA), Christian SAGARTZ (icon: PPE PPE)
Committee Opinion ENVI PIETIKÄINEN Sirpa (icon: EPP EPP) Anja HAZEKAMP (icon: GUE/NGL GUE/NGL), Alexandr VONDRA (icon: ECR ECR), Michal WIEZIK (icon: RE RE), Marie TOUSSAINT (icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE)
Committee Opinion LIBE BRICMONT Saskia (icon: Verts/ALE Verts/ALE) Sira REGO (icon: GUE/NGL GUE/NGL), Isabel SANTOS (icon: S&D S&D), Loránt VINCZE (icon: PPE PPE), Alexandr VONDRA (icon: ECR ECR), Lucia ĎURIŠ NICHOLSONOVÁ (icon: RE RE)
Committee Opinion PETI GHEORGHE Vlad (icon: Renew Renew) Demetris PAPADAKIS (icon: S&D S&D), Sira REGO (icon: GUE/NGL GUE/NGL), Loránt VINCZE (icon: PPE PPE), Gianna GANCIA (icon: ID ID), Andrey SLABAKOV (icon: ECR ECR)
Lead committee dossier:
Legal Basis:
TFEU 083-p2

Events

2024/02/26
   Indicative plenary sitting date
2023/12/11
   EP - Approval in committee of the text agreed at 1st reading interinstitutional negotiations
2023/04/17
   EP - Committee decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations confirmed by plenary (Rule 71)
2023/03/29
   EP - Committee decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations announced in plenary (Rule 71)
2023/03/28
   EP - Committee report tabled for plenary, 1st reading
Details

The Committee on Legal Affairs adopted the report by Antonius MANDERS (EPP, NL) on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the environment through criminal law and replacing Directive 2008/99/EC.

The committee responsible recommended that the European Parliament's position adopted at first reading under the ordinary legislative procedure should amend the proposal as follows:

Subject matter

The report strengthened the subject matter of the proposed Directive stating that it should establish minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions as well as concerning the measures, means and resources necessary to prevent and combat environmental crime and to properly enforce the Union’s environmental law, in order to protect the environment more effectively.

Definitions

Members proposed to include the definition of 'environmental damage' to mean serious harm to any person’s health, or substantial damage to the quality of air, the quality of soil or the quality of water, or to biodiversity, ecosystem services and functions, animals or plants, which is detrimental to anything that grows, blooms and lives, including but not limited to the damage as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2004/35/CE on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage.

Offences

The report stated that Member States should ensure that the following conduct constitutes a criminal offence when it is unlawful and committed intentionally:

- the discharge, emission or introduction of a quantity of materials or substances, energy, or ionising radiation into air, soil or water which causes or is likely to cause death or serious harm to any person’s health or substantial damage to the quality of air, the quality of soil or the quality of water, or to biodiversity, ecosystem services and functions, animals or plants;

- the placing on the market or illegal trade, including online, of a product, the use of which, in breach of a prohibition or another requirement, causes or is likely to cause death or serious harm to any person’s health or substantial damage to the quality of air, the quality of soil or the quality of water, or to biodiversity, ecosystem services and functions, or animals or plants as a result of the product's use on a larger scale;

- the manufacture, placing or making available on, import to and export from the Union market, including online, or use of substances, whether on their own, in mixtures or in articles, including their incorporation into articles, when it causes or is likely to cause death or serious harm to any person’s health or substantial damage to the quality of air, the quality of soil or the quality of water, or to biodiversity, ecosystem services and functions, animals or plants;

- any conduct that causes a forest fire or a significant deterioration of more than one hectare of forest.

Penalties for natural persons

Member States should take the necessary and appropriate measures, including having effective procedures in place, to ensure that the offences are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. They should take the necessary measures to develop measures other than imprisonment in order to contribute to the restoration of the environment.

Member States should also take the necessary measures to ensure that natural persons who have committed the relevant offences may be subject to additional sanctions or measures which should include:

- obligation to reinstate the environment within a given time period, or to compensate for the damage caused, if the perpetrator is not in a capacity to carry out such a reinstatement or if the damage is irreversible;

- fines, proportionate to the gravity and duration of the damage caused to the environment as well as to the financial benefits accrued by committing the offence;

- disqualification from exercising a leading position within a legal person of the type used for committing the offence;

- a requirement to pay the costs of the proceedings borne by the successful party, in accordance with conditions and exceptions provided for in national law applicable to court proceedings.

Liability of legal persons

Legal persons that commit an offence would be held liable under civil law, where relevant, for any harm or damage they cause as a result of that offence, and, in conformity with national law, can be required to compensate the persons who have suffered that harm or damage. The level of sanctions should be proportionate and adapted to reflect the degree of severity and duration of the damage caused .

Members propose to increase the fines imposed on legal persons so that the maximum limit is not less than 10% of the average worldwide turnover of the legal person in the three business years preceding the fining decision.

Mitigating circumstances

Member States should take the necessary measures to ensure that, in relation to relevant offences, the following circumstances may be regarded as mitigating circumstances:

- the offender restores nature to its previous condition before the start of a criminal investigation;

- the offender takes steps to minimise the impact and extent of the damage or remediates the damage of has the damage remediated before the start of a criminal investigation.

Precautionary measures

Necessary measures should be taken to ensure that their competent judicial authorities may order the immediate cessation of the unlawful conducts referred to in this Directive or impose measures to prevent the execution of such conducts, in order to avert damage being caused to the environment.

Limitation measures

Lastly, Member States should take the necessary measures to provide for a limitation period allowing for the investigation, prosecution, trial and judicial determination of criminal offences for a sufficient period of time after the discovery of criminal offences (and not only after their commission).

Documents
2023/03/21
   EP - Vote in committee, 1st reading
2023/03/21
   EP - Committee decision to open interinstitutional negotiations with report adopted in committee
2023/02/06
   EP - Committee opinion
Documents
2022/12/09
   EP - Committee opinion
Documents
2022/12/07
   EP - Committee opinion
Documents
2022/11/10
   EP - Amendments tabled in committee
Documents
2022/11/10
   EP - Amendments tabled in committee
Documents
2022/10/26
   EP - Committee opinion
Documents
2022/10/12
   EP - Committee draft report
Documents
2022/09/05
   EP - BRICMONT Saskia (Verts/ALE) appointed as rapporteur in LIBE
2022/03/14
   EP - ROOSE Caroline (Verts/ALE) appointed as rapporteur in DEVE
2022/03/11
   EP - PIETIKÄINEN Sirpa (EPP) appointed as rapporteur in ENVI
2022/03/01
   EP - GHEORGHE Vlad (Renew) appointed as rapporteur in PETI
2022/02/28
   EP - MANDERS Antonius (EPP) appointed as rapporteur in JURI
2022/01/27
   EP - Committee referral announced in Parliament, 1st reading
2021/12/15
   EC - Document attached to the procedure
2021/12/15
   EC - Document attached to the procedure
2021/12/15
   EC - Document attached to the procedure
2021/12/15
   EC - Legislative proposal published
Details

PURPOSE: to strengthen the protection of the environment through criminal law.

PROPOSED ACT: Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council.

ROLE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: the European Parliament decides in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure and on an equal footing with the Council.

BACKGROUND: criminal law is one part of a comprehensive EU strategy to protect and improve the status of the environment. The current EU legislation that provides common minimum rules to criminalise environmental crime is Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of environment through criminal law. Criminal law measures come in as a last resort when other measures have not sufficed to ensure compliance. Enforcement gaps have been identified in all Member States and at all levels of the enforcement chain (police, prosecution and criminal courts). The lack of coordination between administrative and criminal law enforcement and sanctioning often hinders effectiveness.

CONTENT: the proposed Directive establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions to protect the environment more effectively.

The proposal has six objectives:

(1) Improve the effectiveness of investigations and prosecution by updating the scope of the Directive

The following new categories of criminal offences have been proposed in the revised Environmental Crime Directive: (i) illegal timber trade; (ii) illegal ship recycling; (iii) illegal water abstraction from ground- or surface water; (iv) serious breaches of EU chemicals legislation; (v) serious breaches related to dealing with fluorinated greenhouse gases; (vi) serious breaches of legislation on invasive alien species with Union concern; (vii) serious circumvention of requirements to get a development consent and to do environmental impact assessment causing substantial damage; (viii) source discharge of polluting substances from ships.

(2) Improve the effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions by clarifying or eliminating vague terms used in the definitions of environmental crime

The proposal clarifies undefined legal terms used to describe environmental crime in the current Directive, such as for instance ‘substantial damage'. This will lead to a more harmonised application of criminal law and understanding of environmental crime across the EU, and more legal certainty to duty-holders.

(3) Ensure effective, dissuasive and proportionate sanction types and levels for environmental crime

The Commission proposes to set a common minimum denominator for sanctions for environmental crimes. Where offence cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury to any person, Member States should provide at least up to ten years imprisonment. The draft directive also proposes additional sanctions, including the restoration of nature, exclusion from access to public funding and procurement procedures or the withdrawal of administrative permits.

(4) Foster cross-border investigation and prosecution

Criminal activities related to the environment often have a cross-border dimension, while some environmental crimes usually impact several countries (for example the illicit trafficking of waste, of protected species or of wildlife products, or have cross-border effects (e.g. in the case of cross-border pollution of air, water and soil). Cross-border cooperation between law enforcement and judicial authorities is therefore essential.

(5) Improve informed decision-making on environmental crime through improved collection and dissemination of statistical data

The proposal addresses the need to systematically collect information on efforts to combat environmental crime and to provide statistical data on environmental crime. It requires Member States to collect, publish and send relevant statistical data to the Commission. It also establishes an obligation for the Commission to regularly publish a report based on the statistical data provided by the Member States. This provision also aims to help address the current limited availability of environmental crime data which would assist in evaluating the effectiveness of national systems in fighting environmental criminal offences.

(6) Improve the operational effectiveness of national enforcement chains to foster investigations, prosecutions and sanctioning

To ensure an effective, integrated and coherent enforcement system that includes administrative, civil and criminal law measures, Member States should organise internal cooperation and communication between all actors along the administrative and criminal enforcement chains and between punitive and remedial sanctioning actors. Following the applicable rules, Member States should also cooperate through EU agencies, in particular Eurojust and Europol, as well as with EU bodies, including the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), in their respective areas of competence.

Documents

  • Committee report tabled for plenary, 1st reading: A9-0087/2023
  • Committee opinion: PE737.180
  • Committee opinion: PE732.916
  • Committee opinion: PE731.806
  • Amendments tabled in committee: PE738.572
  • Amendments tabled in committee: PE738.573
  • Committee opinion: PE731.606
  • Committee draft report: PE737.290
  • Document attached to the procedure: EUR-Lex
  • Document attached to the procedure: SEC(2021)0428
  • Document attached to the procedure: EUR-Lex
  • Document attached to the procedure: SWD(2021)0465
  • Document attached to the procedure: EUR-Lex
  • Document attached to the procedure: SWD(2021)0466
  • Legislative proposal published: COM(2021)0851
  • Legislative proposal published: EUR-Lex
  • Document attached to the procedure: EUR-Lex SEC(2021)0428
  • Document attached to the procedure: EUR-Lex SWD(2021)0465
  • Document attached to the procedure: EUR-Lex SWD(2021)0466
  • Committee draft report: PE737.290
  • Committee opinion: PE731.606
  • Amendments tabled in committee: PE738.572
  • Amendments tabled in committee: PE738.573
  • Committee opinion: PE731.806
  • Committee opinion: PE732.916
  • Committee opinion: PE737.180
AmendmentsDossier
1820 2021/0422(COD)
2022/06/13 ENVI 549 amendments...
source: 732.882
2022/09/09 DEVE 88 amendments...
source: 735.795
2022/09/16 PETI 330 amendments...