June 8-9, 2023.
EnviCrimeNet (ECN), today, is a network based on an EU Council Resolution dated May 20th, 2011. After the appearance of environmental crime on the European scene as a new threat to internal security, it became important to define the role of ECN, since the environmental priority introduces the ‘EMPACT-environmental crime’ in the current Political Cycle, within the framework of which objectives and activities fit within the tasks of ECN. Several countries already rely on the LIFE+ financial instrument of the European Commission, through the LIFE+ SATEC Project, as well as other specialized organizations, such as Europol, which has served as the Secretariat of the Network since its creation.
The 2023 General Assembly was opened by the Chairman of the network, Mr. Koporec. In his opening speech, he emphasized the importance of active participation, cooperation, taking action to achieve common goals, and expressed confidence in the network’s ability to overcome challenges and create a brighter future through the development of mutual relationships.
The assembly revolved around current issues of environmental crime. The main themes that were covered were:
- Waste Trafficking in Sweden – Case “Pink”: which involves the largest instance of illegal waste management in Sweden. This case encompasses economic criminal activity and money laundering associated with the proceeds from criminal actions.
- Financial Investigation in Wildlife Crime Cases “Follow the Money”: The importance of monitoring financial resources and confiscating illegal income was emphasized to accounting experts within the Swedish police.
- Wildlife trafficking in Sweden: The representatives of the National Criminal Office of the Swedish Police shared their experiences in combating the wildlife trafficking.
- Lessons Learnt from Trans-frontier Law Enforcement Collaboration Targeting Wildlife Crime in the Nordic Countries and Southern Africa: The professors from the Swedish Défense University presented their research findings on the wildlife trafficking in southern Africa and its connections to the Nordic countries.
- Current Trends in the Field of Environmental Crime: The head of Europol’s Analytical Project for Environmental Crime raised concerns about the insufficient sharing of data from member states with Europol. Environmental crime was identified as a priority under EMPACT based on the political decisions of Member States in 2017 and 2021.
However, there is currently a lack of data in Europol’s database to support these decisions. To bring about change, it is crucial to improve data sharing and to change the attitude and approach of investigators. While there are more researchers than investigators in the field of environmental crime, the work of investigators is essential for detection and investigation.
- Use of Satellites in the Field of Environmental Crime: The representative from the Romanian Meteorological Agency presented the possibilities of using satellite images in detecting and documenting environmental crime. Satellite images have become more accessible and cost-effective with the development of the Copernicus program.
- Tackling Carbon and Emissions Trading Fraud: The representative from the Carabinieri’s Central Operational Department for Environmental Crime in Italy informed that special tactical units have been created within the Carabinieri in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment to combat environmental crime.
In the assembly there was a ‘tour de table’ space, where the participants could tackle different topics that affect their countries, resulting in a very enriching discussion.
An important part of the General Assembly was the speech about the network and its future as NPO. The Life+Satec project and the recently approved extension were discussed in detail.
The representative from Spain informed about the new structure of EnviCrimeNet, which is transitioning from an informal network to a non-profit organization established under Belgian law. This change in legal form is expected to bring about the much-needed professionalization of the network and open opportunities for securing financial resources.
Regarding the status of Project Life+ SATEC Implementation and proposal for extension, the representative from Tragsatec highlighted the significant progress made in various project activities. One of the key accomplishments of the project has been the processing of several reports addressed to the European Commission and other relevant authorities. The project has also focused on harmonizing legislation pertaining to environmental crime and has developed several manuals in this domain. A comprehensive communication strategy has been implemented, and efforts are underway to establish a sub-site with restricted access exclusively for network members. The project has successfully fostered collaboration with other relevant projects and networks, enabling the sharing of knowledge and expertise.
Additionally, the project aims to provide support Latin American countries through initiatives such as the ‘Jaguar Network Assembly’; training activities for financial investigations in Guatemala, and the establishment of ‘Cyber patrolling’ initiatives.
Mr. Koporec, Chairman of the EnviCrimeNet, emphasized the significant conclusions drawn by the Council of the European Union, which focused on combatting environmental crime. Additionally, he discussed the successful implementation of the 8th round of mutual evaluation among member states, with a specific focus on environmental crime. He also highlighted the inclusion of environmental crime as a priority within the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
Despite these achievements, the chairman acknowledged that the fight against environmental crime within the EU is not yet optimal. Some countries have not fully implemented the necessary changes, particularly in terms of enhancing the specialization of law enforcement authorities and providing them with adequate material and technical support. To identify these shortcomings and address them effectively, the chairman proposed the establishment of an objective assessment system for evaluating the state of the fight against environmental crime within the EU.
The EnviCrimeNet General Assembly is a space where experts can share information and solutions on environmental crime. The General Assembly held in Stockholm has been fruitful, where topics of current interest in the world of environmental crime have been discussed and ties have been created between professionals.
LIFE+ SATEC is a project funded by the European Commission and coordinated by the company Tragsatec.