European Commission - Press release

Environmental Crimes: Commission takes Cyprus to Court for failing to transpose EU rules

Brussels, 22 March 2012 – The European Commission is referring Cyprus to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to take measures to ensure that serious breaches of EU environmental law are considered criminal offences and punished. The deadline for transposing Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law was 26 December 2010. However, Cyprus has still not adopted the measures necessary to implement the Directive in national law. In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission will ask the Court to impose on Cyprus a daily penalty payment of € 5909.40 until the adoption of all the necessary national measures for a complete transposition.

Today, the Commission also sent a reasoned opinion – the second stage in the infringement procedure – to Belgium urging it to complete the transposition process for the same Directive within two months. If the Belgian authorities fail do so within this time period, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice.

The Commission welcomes that Greece and Finland have communicated complete transposition measures adopted in their national laws. As a result, the Commission is now closing the infringement cases against these countries.


Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law aims at achieving a higher level of environmental protection by ensuring that criminal law measures are available in all Member States to react to serious breaches of EU rules on environmental protection. The Directive includes a list of breaches such as the illegal shipment of waste or the trade in endangered species. These acts have to be considered as criminal offences in all Member States. Corporations are also to be held liable for such offences. The Directive requires Member States to ensure that the criminal offences are punishable with "effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties".

The practical effect of non-implementation

Failure by Member States to implement the Directive makes it impossible to have common minimum criminal law rules for serious breaches of EU legislation on the protection of the environment. Such EU wide rules are essential to facilitate cooperation between judicial authorities in the Member States and to prevent criminals from exploiting potential loopholes.

For more information

on infringement procedures: MEMO/12/200

on the case: IP/11/739

Justice Directorate General Newsroom:

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

Contacts :

Matthew Newman (+32 2 296 24 06)

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

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