Written question e-1514/02




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WRITTEN QUESTION E-1514/02

by Cristiana Muscardini (UEN) to the Commission (29 May 2002)


Official Journal 301 E , 05/12/2002 P. 0166 - 0167
Subject: Illegal trafficking in live animals
Reports have recently appeared in the Italian press citing figures relating to the market in environmental crime, contained in a report, itself published only very recently, produced by the LAV (Anti-Vivisection League) and sponsored by the Legambiente (League for the Environment) organisation. These figures are extremely disturbing: EUR 2 582 million for waste management activities, EUR 1 785 million for irregularities in the construction sector, EUR 155 million for trafficking in works of art and as much as EUR 2 825 million for the racket in live animals (especially fighting dogs/thoroughbreds intended for illegal racing). In addition, the Vicenza and Padua forestry authorities have impounded 500 000 protected animals slaughtered in eastern European countries.

Is the Commission aware of these disturbing figures?

Does the Commission not consider that, in the field of environmental crime, the governments of the Member States and the applicant countries should be enabled to undertake investigations, through their police forces, into the origins and end-destinations of trafficking of this kind?

Does the Commission not consider that, with a view to the forthcoming (and very welcome) enlargement, the governments of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe should be urged to supply information on hunting and dog-fighting practices in their countries and the legislation in place for regulating such practices?



Answer

given by Mrs Wallström on behalf of the Commission (11 July 2002)


The Commission has noted the figures published recently by the Anti-Vivisection League and in the 2002 report on the Ecomafia published by Legambiente. These figures confirm the data Legambiente has been publishing for several years in its annual reports.

It is the responsibility of the Member States and applicant countries to undertake investigations, through their police forces, into the origins and final destinations of trafficking of this kind. The framework decision on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between the Member States, submitted on the Commission's initiative on 19 September 2001 and adopted on 13 June 2002, abolishes the principle of double criminal liability between Member States in environmental crime if offences are punished in the issuing Member State with a maximum custodial sentence of at least three years.

The Commission is concerned at the increase in environmentally damaging infringements and their effects. These infringements pose a serious threat to the environment and should be countered by effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions at national level, if necessary criminal penalties, in all the Member States.

For this reason, the Commission presented a proposal for a Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law on 15 March 2001(1). Such a Directive should make it possible to apply EC environment law more effectively, by introducing throughout the Community a minimum set of constituent elements of criminal infringements of environment law in each Member State and providing for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions, if necessary criminal penalties, at national level. The proposal is expressly concerned with environmental legislation on the protection of endangered species. It had a successful first reading in the plenary session of the European Parliament of 9 April 2002.

This proposal for a Directive could usefully be accompanied by appropriate measures adopted in the framework of the police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters which is the subject of Title VI of the Treaty on European Union, notably in relation to the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, or to questions of procedure in criminal matters, in accordance with the approach suggested by the European Parliament in its plenary session of 9 April 2002, in the opinion which it delivered as part of the consultation on the draft framework decision on protection of the environment through criminal law.

If adopted before the accession of the applicant countries, the proposed Directive will form part of the Community acquis and will therefore have to be implemented by the new Member States from the time of their accession or within the time limits set by the Directive. The Commission is currently gathering the most reliable data it can find in the Member States and the applicant countries on the existence and scale of organised environmental crime.



With regard to the prevention of dog-fighting, this is a matter of animal protection which is not covered by the Treaty and therefore falls exclusively within the competence of the Member States.
(1) Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the environment through criminal law, OJ C 180 E, 26.6.2001.


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