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Debates of the European Parliament

SITTING OF FRIDAY, 7 JULY 2000

Combating serious environmental crime

Di Lello Finuoli (GUE/NGL), rapporteur. (IT) Mr President, the framework decision put forward by the Council merely reproduces the Council of Europe Convention of 1998 on the prevention of environmental crime, a Convention which has not yet been ratified by any of the Member States of the Council of Europe. The sole purpose of this proposal for a framework decision is to speed things up, at least with regard to the 15 Member States.

In almost every country environmental laws are based almost entirely on very small fines, and this encourages those who are destroying the environment to maximise their profits by trying to avoid using all the modern techniques available to protect the environment. And so, in recent years we have witnessed major disasters such as that of the Erika, which was a rust bucket used to transport crude oil by sea, or the pollution of the Danube with cyanide from Romanian mines. And all this because, as I was saying, these big companies are guaranteed impunity, with the aim of maximising profits.

First of all, this framework decision allows European countries to raise fines to make this offence environmental crime unprofitable. Indeed, until such time as environmental crime is paid for by the community and not by individuals, there is no hope of protecting the environment.

Another area where this framework decision impacts is that of encouraging European countries to adopt sanctions, or at least a system making environmental crime a punishable offence for legal persons. Few European countries provide for the liability of legal persons in their criminal law, but others are taking steps towards this. Italy too, in revising the new penal code, intends to make legal persons punishable, because today serious environmental crime is not committed by individuals but by large multinationals, which cause huge disasters simply because they do not invest in prevention.

European countries should agree on fairly general regulations soon and, in any case, raise fines so that these offences are not paid for out of the community' s pocket.

Another important aspect is the cooperation that this framework decision will bring about between countries: an information network enabling a rapid exchange of information and an agreement which requires environmental crime to be considered as a crime that may lead to extradition or for example the confiscation of property and profits, and which, in any case, makes these offences unprofitable. I would just like to point out that the committee approved this report almost unanimously, with only one abstention, and all the political groups, from the PPE to the PSE to the Greens, contributed to improving it.

This report therefore expresses the point of view of the Committee on Citizens'  Freedoms, and, we hope, expresses the point of view of the European Parliament, which must ensure that the European countries at last adopt effective legislation on the protection of the environment.

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