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Tuesday
Jun212016

Environment Ministers endorse ambitious EU Action Plan to address wildlife trafficking

EU Flags © Tristam Sparks / Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.0Brussels, Belgium, 21st June 2016—European Union (EU) Environment Ministers yesterday endorsed the EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking, part of the region’s contribution towards the international efforts to curb wildlife crime.

“While TRAFFIC warmly welcomes yesterday’s firm political commitment by EU Member States to implement the comprehensive Action Plan, we are concerned about a lack of clarity on what level of new resources will be made available to help with its implementation,” said Katalin Kecse-Nagy, TRAFFIC’s Acting Regional Director for Europe.

The Action Plan sets out a comprehensive list of 32 actions to ensure a co-ordinated response to address wildlife crime within the EU and strengthen the region’s role in the global fight against illegal wildlife trade.

It was drawn up following extensive public consultations in 2014 (PDF, 1 MB) and 2015 (PDF, 1 MB), to which TRAFFIC and many others contributed, and acknowledges the EU’s role as a transit point and end use market for trafficked wildlife products and also as a source region for species such as European Eels and Danube sturgeons.

Important topics covered in the Action Plan include recognition for the sustainable use of wildlife resources by local communities and the vital role they have to play in conservation, and the need for the Council to receive regular feedback on how the Action Plan is being implemented.

The need for information sharing within the EU is also highlighted, with specific reference to the TRAFFIC-manged European Union Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange (EU-TWIX) platform. EU-TWIX, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of operation, comprises a communications platform and a seizures database for European enforcement officials. TRAFFIC’s regular analyses of EU-TWIX data (PDF, 2 MB) help inform the work of EU enforcement agencies.

However, although EU Member States played an important role in the adoption in 2015 of the UN General Assembly Resolution on “Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife”, which “calls upon Member States to make illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora involving organized criminal groups a serious crime”, the Council Conclusions adopted yesterday make no explicit commitment in this regard.

“Strong penalties are an important aspect to successful implementation of the Action Plan, and TRAFFIC strongly encourages all Member States to ensure their national legislation meets the requirement for wildlife crime to be recognized as a serious crime, punishable by a minimum sentence of at least four years imprisonment,” said Kecse-Nagy.

The adoption of the EU Action Plan comes amidst a backdrop of uncertainty over the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU, with the country set to vote on Thursday whether to stay or leave. A leave vote would have considerable implications for the successful implementation of such regional Action Plans.

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