08 April 2015

'End Wildlife Trafficking': Conference in Brussels on 15 April at the European Parliament

Not long ago we were talking about the new pledge signed by several MEPs and the creation of the MEPs for Wildlife Group, and only a few weeks after it we have the first initiative.

As MEP Catherine Bearder announced on that occasion, the Group would focus in working with the European Commission to build in an EU Action Plan to fight against illegal wildlife trade, and this is exactly the topic of the conference: to discuss the EU's role in stopping this trafficking. 

The presence of officials from the European Commission and the Parliament (MEPs I guess) is foreseen as well as that of experts from the key regions. At the same time, an exhibition will be displayed in paralell in the premises of the Parliament.

Looking back in time, exactly one year ago, the European Commission organised a big Conference on the same subject entitled 'Conference on the EU Approach Against Wildlife Trafficking'. It was a a concluding point to a public consultation that it had launched several weeks before. Many stakeholders attended the Conference and further workshops, and also provided their input to the public consultation, some of them quite extensibly.

Now, looking ahead to next week's conference, it is difficult for me to see what conclusions can be drawn other than those resulting from the previous one (summarised by the European Commission in this link):

  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.

It is true though, that a new event may help increasing awareness and political will, one of the key issues underlined last year. The existence of this Group of MEPs is already a big achievement. However, other than that, there is a risk that speeches and good intentions are repeated all over again. 

The role of the European Commission in this event however, might be the only element that adds to the equation: I personally would expect the institution to present its advancements since the April 2014 Conference, the main lines of what an Action Plan would look like and the consequences of the Gaborone amendment for the institution and the whole EU. And I would expect it to be done at the highest possible level: the Commissioner should show his commitment and be the one announcing all these issues. Without wanting to put too much pressure on the EC officials who are, I am sure, overloaded with a million tasks, I believe this would be the only point that will allow the discussions to move further instead of stagnate in the same old (and very valid) arguments.

The Conference is organised by the Born FREE Foundation on 15 April from 9h30 to 14h30 and the venue is:

Room P3CO50

Paul-Henri Spaak Building

European Parliament, Brussels
and the multi-media exhibition:

Tuesday 14th to Thursday 16th April 2015
3rd Floor,

ASP Building,

European Parliament, Brussels

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