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Compliance with the EU Environmental Crime Directive

The Themis Secretariat has released a report on compliance with the EU Environmental Crime Directive in the countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE) and Moldova. The report explores the harmonisation of national criminal law with the Environmental Crime Directive in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia in their capacities as EU candidates, potential candidates and associated countries.

Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law is an essential piece of EU legislation, presenting a unified approach to environmental protection across the EU. The directive obliges EU member states to impose penalties for a minimum set of offences against the environment in an effort to improve compliance with EU environmental law.

According to the report, all SEE countries have introduced the category of crimes against the environment into their criminal codes. However, the harmonisation of national penal codes with the crimes included in the Environmental Crime Directive varies significantly, with some countries essentially achieving full compliance and others including only basic pollution crimes. Many crimes are “partially harmonised”, as only certain aspects of offences listed in the directive are criminalised. Sanctions imposed for environmental crimes, particularly with regard to the size of the fines imposed, also vary significantly from country to country. All countries provide for both accomplice liability and the liability of legal persons, as required by the directive.

Enforcement capacity remains a major issue throughout the region, due largely to weaknesses in monitoring, resource limitations, and a lack of progress in implementing the EU environmental standards that the Environmental Crime Directive seeks to strengthen.

The report was written by Eli Keene and edited by Aniko Nemeth, Bruno Mesquita and Cecile Monnier.