Researchers from seven universities and four think-tanks from six European countries met in Brussels on 23-25 January 2013 to launch the EFFACE project.
Speaking on the integrated approach to be used in EFFACE, R. Andreas Kraemer, Director of Ecologic Institute, in Berlin, which is coordinating the project, said that “What we want to do is to combine our knowledge on environmental policy and on the implementation of environmental law and put that together with the expertise in the research communities dealing with policy priorities in other areas, in this case criminologists and lawyers who deal with criminal law to see how to harmonize criminal law so that criminal law can be more effective to fight environmental crime”.
One issue discussed during the meeting was the definition of environmental crime. The EU Environmental Crime Directive contains rules on which type of environmental offences the Member States need to define as crime in their national legal orders. However, beyond the behaviour that is defined as environmental crime in EU law, there may be actions that cause serious damage to the environment and, through that, society at large; some argue that such types should also be considered as environmental crime. A part of EFFACE research efforts will be to understand more in-depth of what should be considered environmental crime, and what other approaches other than criminalisation are pertinent and effective.
The meeting was opened by a presentation of Davyth Stewart, Criminal Intelligence Officer with the Environmental Crime Programme of the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) who shared some insights from the practice of combating environmental crime. Stressing the need for improved enforcement of environmental laws, Davyth Stewart, quoted Abraham Lincoln who said ‘Law without enforcement is only good advice’. Stewart said that illegal deforestation and other types of environmental crime pose a serious threat to national security. Mr Stewart said: “Organised criminals who have often operated in other fields are moving into environmental crime where there are much lower risks for significant profits. The risks are lower because environmental crime does not have as high a priority as other forms of crime. A number of criminal networks formerly engaged in drug trafficking out of South America are now starting to use the same networks and the same channels to take protected species or precious timbers out of the Amazon”.