Updated: 03/04/2024

Council clears new EU law with tougher sanctions and extended list of offences

On March 26, 2024, the Council formally adopted a directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law. The law will improve the investigation and prosecution of environmental crime offences. The directive establishes EU-wide minimum rules on the definition of criminal offences and penalties. It replaces the previous law which dates back to 2008. The law will only apply to offences committed within the EU. However, member states are able to choose to extend their jurisdiction to offences that have been committed outside their territory.

The number of conducts that will constitute a criminal offence will increase from nine to 20. New offences include timber trafficking, the illegal recycling of polluting components of ships and serious breaches of legislation on chemicals. The new law also introduces a ‘qualified offence’ clause which applies when an offence referred to in the directive is committed intentionally and causes the destruction of or irreversible or long-lasting damage to the environment.

Member states will have to make sure that natural persons and companies may be sanctioned by additional measures such as an obligation for the offender to reinstate the environment or compensate for the damage, excluding them from access to public funding or withdrawing their permits or authorizations. Member states have two years from the entry into force of the directive to adapt their national rules to the directive.

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Updated: 03/04/2024 / Hit: 1,136