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EU Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law

22 May 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 22 May 2008

The Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law regulates the protection of the environment through criminal law and significantly contributes to the more effective implementation of environmental protection policy at EU level.


The Directive provides that, among other activities, the following acts can be considered criminal offences in the area of environmental protection:

  • illegal disposal of radioactive substances and illegal waste management, in particular waste transport, where these activities result, or may result, in death or serious injuries of people, or considerable deterioration in the condition of air, soil and water, or where they are detrimental to animals or plants;
  • illegal operation of production plants pursuing hazardous activities, likely to have similar effects;
  • illegal slaughter or destruction of protected animals and plants, illegal trafficking in protected animals and plants or parts thereof, as well as any illegal action, resulting in deterioration of habitat within a protected district;
  • illegal production and use of substances that deplete the ozone layer.

Addressing both natural and legal persons, the Directive also provides that the criminal penalties imposed for such criminal offences should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. These provisions are in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

The adoption of the Directive is particularly important because of the Court’s decision to annul the Framework Decision on the protection of the environment on the grounds that it had been adopted on an erroneous legal basis, although, content-wise, it regulated the same area. The annulment of the Framework Decision resulted in a legal vacuum, which necessitated the prompt adoption of the Directive.

The proposal for a Directive was adopted at first reading under the co-decision procedure with the European Parliament. The EU Council reached agreement on 22 May 2008 at the level of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). The Directive was also confirmed by a vote of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The EU Council is to formally confirm the Directive shortly.

Source: Slovenian EU Presidency