EUROPOL is the EU law enforcement organisation which aims at improving the effectiveness and co-operation of the competent authorities in the Member States in preventing and combating terrorism, unlawful drug trafficking and other serious forms of international organised crime. EUROPOL is a European Police Office operating through a single national unit in each Member State (Article 1 of the EUROPOL Convention ).
In accordance with Article 2 of the EUROPOL Convention of 26 July 1995, the objectives of EUROPOL relates to the improvement of the effectiveness and cooperation of the competent authorities in the Member States in preventing and combating terrorism, unlawful drug trafficking and other serious forms of international crime where there are factual indications that an organised criminal structure is involved and two or more Member States are affected by the forms of crime in question in such a way as to require a common approach by the Member States owing to the scale, significance and consequences of the offences concerned. To this aim, EUROPOL shall initially act to prevent and combat unlawful drug trafficking, trafficking in nuclear and radioactive substances, illegal immigrant smuggling, trade in human beings and motor vehicle crime. Moreover, the Council may decide to instruct Europol to deal with other forms of crime listed in the Annex to this Convention or specific manifestations thereof. Such a decision shall be taken by the Council acting unanimously in accordance with the procedure laid down in Title VI of the Treaty on European Union. The list of other serious forms of international crime included in the Annex referred to in Article 2 contains a specific reference to the �illegal trading and harm to the environment and, in particular:
- illicit trafficking in arms, ammunition and explosives
- illicit trafficking in endangered animal species
- illicit trafficking in endangered plant species and varieties
- environmental crime
- illicit trafficking in hormonal substances and other growth promoters
As well, the Annex referred to in Article 2, refers to the "crime connected with nuclear and radioactive substances" meaning the criminal offences listed in Article 7(1) of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, signed at Vienna and New York on 3 March 1980, and relating to the nuclear and/or radioactive materials defined in Article 197 of the Euratom Treaty and Directive 80/836 Euratom of 15 July 1980.
EUROPOL releases every year a report on the EU Organised Crime providing an updated snapshot on the different organised crime groups growing and developing across Europe. The 2005 EU Organised Crime Report referred also to environmental crime and more exactly underlined the discrepancies and gaps between EU and national legislation on environmental crime which facilitates the development of organised crime in this sector. The 2006 EU Organised Crime Report referred to environmental crime too and more exactly underlined the discrepancies and gaps between EU and national legislation on environmental crime. Among the crime categories and in particular the crimes against the natural environment, the 2006 report mentioned the illicit trafficking of illegal waste like cases of illegal waste disposal, especially hazardous waste and illegal trade in protected and threatened species. The report mentioned that in 2004 the organised environmental crime in the Member States concerned mainly illegal waste disposal with a clear focus on hazardous waste materials. The report underlined the difficulty to determinate the organised crime groups involvement in environmental crime mainly because such a crime has not an high priority for law enforcement authorities in some Member States in comparison with other crimes. Nevertheless, the report noted that the illegal trafficking of disposing hazardous waste was becoming always more attractive for criminals for many different reasons. Firstly, the growth of the economy in certain countries and the consequent growing of waste produced is not accompanied by advanced waste disposal systems. Moreover, such a trafficking is likely to generate high profits which, together with the lack of intelligence in many member states on the issue and the low level of penalties in this field, attract the criminals towards such an activity. In particular, the UK authorities confirmed that illegal waste dumping is growing in the country because of the high level of landfill costs and the lack of legitimate sites for the disposal of hazardous waste. Moreover, the legislative gap in terms of waste dumping is opening the way to the organised crime and management of clandestine waste disposals as well as exploitation of public tenders, in particular the 2006 report referred to the Italians mafiatype organisations.
Finally, the cases of cross-border transport of waste and illegal trade with regard to protected and threatened species increased in the EU after the enlargement of the 1st of May 2004. On this issue, a recent paper investigating the environmental crime in five new member states reported a total number of 63 cases of organised environmental crime. The 2005 Report concludes that environmental crime is sometimes taking place next to other criminal activities in many Member States.
In terms of EC law, after many years of negotiations a Council Framework Decision 2003/80/JHA of 27 January 2003 on the protection of the environment through criminal law was adopted in 2003.
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