EU to update law criminalising pollution at sea

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The Commission has tabled a revised version of an EU directive imposing criminal sanctions in cases of maritime pollution. The original proposal had to be modified following a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling last year.

The ECJ ruling, issued on 23 October 2007, supported the Commission proposal to impose criminal sanctions for pollution at sea. But it also stated that it does not have the authority to lay down the type and level of criminal penalty, which is left to the discretion of member states (EURACTIV 24/10/07).

The ruling represented an important victory for the Commission, which had been arguing with member states over its right to intervene in criminal matters. The proposed revised text therefore aims to fill the legal gap left open by the ECJ. 

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot commented: “The large majority of operators carrying polluting and dangerous goods are behaving fully responsibly and correctly. The proposal is focused on the small minority operators for whom this might not be the case and who tarnish the image of the shipping industry.”

The revised text also complements a more general proposed directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law, on which Franco Frattini, the EU’s justice and home affairs commissioner, said he hoped to reach an agreement soon.

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