According to the FT the EU Commission will tomorrow put forward a proposal to require member states to punish environmental crimes with harmonised penalties. The new law is the result of the controversial ECJ ruling in September 2005, which said for the first time that the European Community is able to set criminal penalties and offences if it is necessary to achieve one of the fundamental objectives of the treaties.
It will be interesting to see what happens to this proposal. 11 of the then 15 EU member states fought in court against giving the EU Commission the power to set criminal law for member states. After the ruling the British government’s line was: “We firmly believed it was inappropriate to harmonise criminal law at EU level. We believe criminal law is a matter for member states co-operating intergovernmentally.” Either the UK and others will be forced by the majority to back down from this stance, which would be a major u-turn and a watershed in EU politics, or this proposal will end up in deadlock in council.