Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Carmelo Abela has said that differences in national legislation and operational set-ups between European Union Member States have resulted in divergences between what may be considered as an environmental offence, and also in varying penalty systems.
He added that “this makes operational cooperation in this field difficult to establish and hard to maintain, while creating safe havens for criminals who take advantage of the fact that not all crimes are sanctioned equally in all Member States.”
“This situation has to be tackled in an effective manner by building on existing initiatives and efforts by Member States and European and international organisations. This has to be done whilst also respecting EU and Member State competences,” said Minister Abela.
The Minister was addressing the steering group meeting of EnviCrimeNet, an informal European network of crime fighters from police agencies and special forces fighting environmental crime, operating under the Council of the EU’s Law Enforcement Working Party.
The two-day meeting is being held on the 3rd and 4th April 2017 at the Police Headquarters in Floriana. It is being chaired by the network’s chairperson Roel Willekens, in the presence of Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar. Malta participates in this network through its national contact point Insp. Colin Sheldon.
“The current state-of-play requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach at all levels, as well as the use of all relevant European, international and national policies and instruments, involving law enforcement, customs, and border guard authorities, as well as environmental and administrative authorities,” the Minister said.
“As a group of experts, EnviCrimeNet is well-placed to achieve results in the fight against environmental crime through a number of initiatives, such as the sharing of experiences, investigative methods, and information; the establishment of joint investigations, as well as working on creating training opportunities for law enforcement officers and other concerned entities.”
The Minister said that it is the intention of the current Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU to continue working on the implementation of Council conclusions on countering environmental crime, adopted in December 2016.
“The Presidency will also continue to act as an honest broker in the ongoing discussions on the selection of the next set of EU crime priorities that will strategically guide the fight against serious and organised crime over the next four years. In this regard, environmental crime will be given the exposure that it deserves,” the Minister said.
Photograph: DOI/Clodagh Farrugia O’Neill