05 March 2015

An interesting initiative at the European Parliament: MEPs for Wildlife Group

The days around the World Wildlife Day have been sorrounded by announcements of initiatives, ivory bans and publications of reports about wildlife crime. It was time to get serious about wildlife crime a long time ago, but anyway, it is very positive that finally the issue is gaining momentum in the international arena. Maybe some Governments will give it now the attention (and budget) it deserves.

One of the initiatives announced and launched was the creation of a cross-party group of MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) commited to the cause of stepping up the fight against illegal wildlife trade: MEPs for Wildlife Group.

Promoted by MEP Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for South East England and highly motivated to get environmental protection up in the political agenda (admirable in times when EU Environmental protection is being 'better regulated'), this Group composed of members from all EP Parties has pledged to:

'actively support the development and implementation of a European Action Plan to tackle the illegal wildlife trade'.

Their intention is to work as close as possible with the European Commission to come up with a EU Action Plan to fight againts illegal wildlife trade that includes all sectors involved (justice and home affairs, internal market, fisheries...). They will do this by gathering information on the subjet and communicating their ideas and proposals to the European Commission. 

It is high time that the Commission comes up with an Action Plan after the April 2014 Conference and expert meeting to discuss how to strengthen enforcement and the fight against organized wildlife crime in the EU. 

Having worked for the European Commission myself, I very well know that there are many factors upon which the drafting of this Plan depends. The College of Commissioners has recently changed with the subsequent movers and shakers all around: it may very well be that the Action Plan is not high on the Agenda anymore, that it is seating in someone's office to be discussed, that it is awaiting final approval....who knows? 

Anyway, the EU is seriously lagging behind. The US has already announced its implementation plan for its National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. As a serious importer and transit region of wildlife products the EU should be showing a bigger commitment. Personally, I have low expectations for the new Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, who also holds the portfolios of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. I do hope I am totally wrong though.

Anyway, the MEPs for Wildlife Group will be assisted by a Steering Committee composed of several NGOs that will help them take decisions. At the same time, the MEPs commit to use their national and international networks to raise awareness and gain support.

It all looks very promising. I can only wish the best of luck to Ms. Bearder, her team and the whole Group. I am sure they already count with the support and simpathy of many.

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