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Monday, 19 May 2008 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Protection of the environment through criminal law (debate)

  Hiltrud Breyer (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, it is really very heartening that the Commission did not let itself be unnerved by the Member States and has presented a proposal on the criminal liability of environmental offenders, because we cannot go on treating infringements of environmental law as mere peccadilloes. It is also encouraging, on the very day when the UN Biodiversity Conference opened, that the legislative proposal defines nature reserves better and more clearly and helps to spell out what constitutes an offence.

It is, however, regrettable that there are no sanctions and that there is no blanket treatment of offences as criminal acts. That, sadly, creates loopholes, especially with regard to the protection of flora and fauna, where offenders are not sentenced as a matter of course and many are able to escape by pleading ignorance. It would therefore have been logical and beneficial if this directive had covered genetic engineering too. Criminal conduct in environmental matters must be punished, and I hope that this directive will be a milestone and will demonstrate clearly that the environment is an asset which is worth protecting and that we must make every effort to ensure that infringements of environmental law do not go unpunished.

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