Proposal for a Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law and replacing Directive 2008/99/EC

Author (Corporate)
Series Details COM (2021) 851
Publication Date 15/12/2021
Content Type , ,


Legislative initiative adopted by the European Commission on 15 December 2021, seeking to revise the rules aimed at cracking down on environmental crime.

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Directive 2008/99/EC - also known as the Environmental Crime Directive - provides common minimum rules to criminalise environmental crime. The European Commission carried out an assessment in 2019-2020 on this framework and published its findings in October 2020. It found that the Directive did not have much effect on the ground over the years. The evaluation found considerable enforcement gaps in all Member States of the European Union (EU) and at all levels of the enforcement chain. It also identified deficiencies in the Member States in terms of resources, specialised knowledge, awareness, prioritisation, cooperation and information sharing, and found there were no overarching national strategies to combat environmental crime involving all levels of the enforcement chain and a multi-disciplinary approach.

Moreover, the lack of coordination between administrative and criminal law enforcement and sanctioning often hindered effectiveness. Finally, it was noted that the lack of reliable, accurate and complete statistical data on environmental crime proceedings in the Member States not only hampered the Commission’s evaluation but also prevents national policy-makers and practitioners from monitoring the effectiveness of their measures.

This draft law seeks to revise the existing legislative initiative, and comprises six main objectives;

  • Improve the effectiveness of investigations and prosecution by updating the scope of the Directive;
  • Improve the effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions by clarifying or eliminating vague terms used in the definitions of environmental crime;
  • Ensure effective, dissuasive and proportionate sanction types and levels for environmental crime;
  • Foster cross-border investigation and prosecution;
  • Improve informed decision-making on environmental crime through improved collection and dissemination of statistical data;
  • Improve the operational effectiveness of national enforcement chains to foster investigations, prosecutions and sanctioning.

The proposed Directive was tabled by the European Commission on 15 December 2021, alongside a Communication explaining its policy objectives. The Council of the European Union adopted its general approach on 9 December 2022. The plenary of the European Parliament endorsed a negotiating position on 17 April 2023. An informal agreement between the co-legislators on a compromise text for this file was reached on 16 November.

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Commentary and Analysis
European Environmental Bureau (EEB): News, 13/12/2021: EU criminal law must pave way for better environmental protection, NGOs demand
Birdlife International: News, 20/12/2021: EU Commission proposes putting teeth into the EU’s Environmental Crime Legislation
White&Case: Alert, 11/01/2022: EU Commission proposes to strengthen criminal law to protect the environment
Linklaters: Sustainable Futures, 17/01/2022: European Commission proposes new directive to crack down on environmental crime
WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF): Position Paper, 01/03/2022: A new EU Environmental Crime Directive
European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS): Briefing, 26/04/2022: Environmental crime directive - Initial Appraisal of a European Commission Impact Assessment
European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN): Paper, June 2022: Preventing environmental crime - from law into practice
European Environmental Bureau (EEB): News, 13/12/2022: Member States against strong EU rules to penalise environmental crimes
European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS): Briefing, 15/03/2023: Revision of Directive 2008/99/EC: Protection of the environment through criminal law
StateWatch: Analyses, 17/04/2023: The green police: anti-mafia powers for environmental crime investigations?
Foreign Policy: Analysis, 16/05/2023: Ecological Murder Could Soon Be Illegal
NOVA University of Lisbon: Green Lab, 12/09/2023: A Legal Analysis of the Revised Environmental Crime Directive: Strengthening Enforcement and Accountability in EU Environmental Law
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), 16/11/2023: EU co-legislators take significant step to tackle environmental crime
European Environmental Bureau (EEB), 16/11/2023: EEB welcomes major advances on environmental crime, regrets critical gaps

The Brussels Times, 15/12/2021: European Commission steps up the fight against environmental crimes in the EU
Politico, 20/01/2022: Europe’s dirty problem: Environmental crime
EUObserver, 29/06/2022: Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says
Deutsche Welle, 16/10/2022: Environmental crime: Profit can be higher than drug trade
EurActiv, 30/03/2023: Parliament adds ecocide to EU’s draft list of environmental crimes
Euronews, 05/07/2023: Most wildlife crimes in Europe go unpunished or undetected, WWF report reveals
Reuters, 16/11/2023: EU agrees tougher penalties for environmental crimes
The Guardian, 17/11/2023: EU criminalises environmental damage ‘comparable to ecocide’
The Brussels Times, 17/11/2023: EU agrees on tougher legislation on environmental crimes, possibly also ecocide

EUR-LEX: SWD(2021)465: Staff Working Document accompanying the Proposal - Impact Assessment Report
EUR-LEX: SWD(2021)466: Staff Working Document accompanying the Proposal - Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment Report
European Parliament: Legislative Observatory: Procedure File for Proposal on Protection of the environment through criminal law (2021/0422(OLP))
European Parliament: Legislative Train Schedule: Revision of the Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law
General Secretariat of the Council: Infographics: How the EU fights environmental crime
European Commission: Press Release, 15/12/2021: European Green Deal: Commission proposes to strengthen the protection of the environment through criminal law
European Commission: Questions and Answers on the revised EU Directive on environmental crime (15 December 2021)
S&D EP Group: Newsroom, 15/12/2021: S&Ds: Polluters and environmental offenders must face a punishment that fits the crime
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 09/12/2022: Council agrees its negotiating mandate on the environmental crime directive
European Parliament: Press Release, 21/03/2023: MEPs support stricter sanctions for environmental crimes
EPP EP Group: Newsroom, 21/03/2023: Punish environmental crime with 10 percent of global turnover
Greens/EFA EP Group: Press Release, 29/03/2023: European Parliament poised to recognize ecocide
European Parliament: Press Release, 16/11/2023: Environmental crimes: deal on new offences and reinforced sanctions
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 16/11/2023: Environmental crime: Council and European Parliament reach provisional agreement on new EU law
European Commission: Press Release, 16/11/2023: Commission welcomes political agreement on protecting the environment through criminal law

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