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Environmental Crimes: MEPs Adopt Extended List of Offences and Sanctions

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The European Parliament has approved new rules on environmental crimes and related sanctions. The directive, which was agreed upon with the Council on November 16, 2023, introduces an updated list of criminal offenses related to environmental violations. Here are the key points:

  1. Expanded Offenses: The new list of environmental crimes now includes illegal timber trade, depletion of water resources, serious breaches of EU chemicals legislation, and pollution caused by ships.

  2. Qualified Offense: MEPs ensured that the rules cover the so-called “qualified offense.” This includes large-scale forest fires or widespread pollution of air, water, and soil, leading to ecosystem destruction comparable to ecocide.

  3. Penalties for Individuals: Environmental crimes committed by individuals will be punishable by imprisonment. The severity of punishment depends on the extent and permanence of the damage. Qualified offenses could result in up to eight years in prison, while offenses causing a person’s death could lead to ten years of imprisonment. Other offenses may result in up to five years of imprisonment.

  4. Corporate Accountability: Companies found guilty of environmental crimes will face fines. The fines will be either 3% or 5% of their yearly worldwide turnover, or alternatively, 24 or 40 million euros, depending on the nature of the offense.

  5. Reinstating the Environment: Offenders, both individuals and companies, will be required to restore the damaged environment and provide compensation.

  6. Cross-Border Prosecution: Member states can decide whether to prosecute criminal offenses that did not occur within their territory.

  7. Support for Whistleblowers: Whistleblowers reporting environmental offenses will receive support and assistance during criminal proceedings.

  8. Training and Data Collection: Member states will organize specialized training for law enforcement personnel and collect data on environmental offenses to better address this issue.


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