The European Commission has unveiled plans to turn environmental offences over to criminal courts across the European Union. Under the plans, people could face jail not only for dumping toxic and nuclear waste but also for illegally trading in endangered plants or species. It marks an extension of the EU's powers, following a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2005. Criminal law is a competence jealously guarded by the 27 member states. The proposals must first be approved by member states and the European Parliament to become law. Presenting the proposal, EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said studies on organised environmental crime showed that nearly three-quarters of cases had cross-border implications. It was impossible to punish or prevent green crimes at national level, he said: the differences in the laws of member states were too many, and too great. The commission says Germany, Finland and the Czech Republic are among the best at enforcing environmental law, while Italy, Malta and Cyprus are among the worst.


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