Today the European Commission organised an Expert Conference on the EU Approach against Wildlife Trafficking. The Agenda together with the speakers’ names may be found in the link above. It is expected that their presentations will be uploaded on the same website soon.
The main messages conveyed by the participants may be sumarised as follows:
1. Enforcement needs to be strengthened at EU level through concrete cooperation among Member States.
2. EU Member States must share the data collected on seizures and systematically analise it.
3. EU needs to enhance international cooperation, diplomatic links and support concrete actions.
4. Funding is needed for particular purposes, especially to improve enforcement at range state level.
5. Awareness raising at political level is needed to improve the legal framework and strengthen sanctions.
6. It is important to reflect on the use of other instruments addressing financial crimes.
The Conference was divided into thematic sessions, each of them devoted to the analysis of the encountered problems and the current needs to combat wildlife trafficking. The main messages delivered per section were the following:
Strengthening EU enforcement against wildlife trafficking
1. Cooperation at Member States level is needed to ensure implementation and enforcement all over EU, no matter where the action was committed. Currently there is a complex body of legislation at international and EU level that the 28 Member States implement individually through their different administrative layers. This amounts to hundreds of Agencies, departments and units not necessarily working with each other.
2. Judges and prosecutors role must be enhanced: “the enforcement chain is as strong as the weakest part” (Jan Van den Berghe): prosecutors and judges need to be informed, motivated and trained appropriately.
3. More resources are needed to improve enforcement “on the ground”.
Fight against organised wildlife crime
1. The EU needs a centralized approach towards data collection. Currently there is no centralized data base of seizures at EU level and no annual report similar to those drafted for drugs or arms trafficking.
2. Wildlife crime needs to be regarded as a serious crime by Member States at all levels but also at international level.
3. Wildlife is a business and a commodity for criminals: EU must apply the financial tools for the investigations of these crimes and follow the money.
4. EUROPOL’s role in data collection should be enhanced.
EU action at international level –Development Support and Diplomatic Action
1. More international cooperation actions and active participation in international initiatives such as the Lusaka Agreement Process or joint actions like the COBRA operation.
2. Better coordinator of EU Member States at international level.
3. Financial support to ranger countries to develop specific measures and to facilitate actions on the ground.
4. Enhance the use of the EEAS and the Member States embassies to raise awareness at political level such as the Green Diplomacy Networks.
This Conference closed the procedure of the stakeholders consultation launched by the European Commission in February through the “Communication on the EU approach against wildlife trafficking”. As the Environment Commissioner stated, an analysis of the replies to the consultation and of the exchanges had during the Conference is likely to lead to the drafting of an EU Action Plan to combat illegal trafficking.
Tomorrow two parallel Workshops will be held based on the first and second topic only open for Governmental authorities.