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Research on Actors, Institutions and Instruments Relevant for Fighting Environmental Crime


Research on Actors, Institutions and Instruments Relevant for Fighting Environmental Crime


Faure, Michael G., Christiane Gerstetter, Stephan Sina and Grazia Maria Vagliasindi. "Instruments, Actors and Institutions in the Fight Against Environmental Crime." Study in the framework of the EFFACE research project. Berlin: Ecologic Institute, 2015.

One facet of the "European Union Action to Fight Environmental Crime" (EFFACE) project, coordinated by Ecologic Institute, is research on the instruments, actors, and institutions involved in the fight against environmental crime. The overall work consists of a main report and a variety of studies, focusing on specific legal provisions, institutions, and actors at the national, EU, and international levels. The Ecologic team has compiled a country report on Germany, completed a study on NGOs and networks of enforcement officials, and contributed to the aggregation report that summarizes EFFACE research on actors, institutions, and instruments. The reports by Ecologic Institute and other institutions are available for download.

Main Report: Actors, institutions and instruments relevant for fighting environmental crime

Stephan Sina, Christiane Gerstetter and Katharina Klaas of the Ecologic Institute contributed to the above report, which aggregates the conclusions from various individual studies and draws preliminary conclusions.

The multilevel approach of the EFFACE research resulted in a 'vertical' as well as 'horizontal' aggregation of the different reports.

The 'vertical' aggregation describes the main features of those instruments which appear to be more relevant in tackling the most serious forms of environmental crime (e.g. illegal shipment of waste), as well as the role played by enforcement actors and institutions (e.g. police). It also highlights strengths and weaknesses of the regulatory framework as well as of the enforcement mechanisms (e.g. lack of cooperation between enforcement authorities at different levels).

The 'horizontal' aggregation describes the main characteristics of the selected national legal systems on environmental crime.  It provides a comparison among them (e.g. concerning the structure of the criminal offences, the levels of sanctions for the same criminal conduct or the role of administrative offences and related enforcement authorities in assuring the effectiveness of environmental protection). The report also highlights strengths and weaknesses of the different regulatory and enforcement systems on environmental crime.

On these grounds, this report formulates conclusions on the existing regulatory and enforcement settings and tries to provide a baseline for the formulation of policy recommendations to the EU legislator in order to enhance the regulatory and enforcement tools to fighting environmental crime.

Environmental crime in Germany: a country report

Germany has a sophisticated set of rules regarding environmental crimes which are presented in the report. These criminal provisions are complemented by a multitude of administrative penal offences. Sanction for such administrative penal offences may be imposed by the administrative authorities who have jurisdiction to prosecute and sanction administrative penal offences according to the Administrative Offences Act (OWiG). In criminalising a wide range of environmentally harmful behaviour, German environmental criminal law is a typical example of a modern legal system based on prevention and risk assessment.

The report concludes that German environmental criminal law already conformed by and large to Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law (ECD). Nonetheless, the ‘Europeanisation’ of German environmental criminal law has some important impacts. For example there is an increased dependency of environmental criminal law on administrative law, and more types of environmentally harmful behaviour have become subject to criminal sanctions.

Germany faces a number of problems enforcing environmental criminal law. Due to the scientific complexity of the circumstances surrounding environmental crime cases, it is difficult to find enough evidence against perpetrators. Particularly in decentralised large-scale enterprises, the division of work makes it difficult to attribute criminal liability to a particular person. In addition, there are factual barriers such as insufficient resources and expertise of the prosecution service and police officials. These are the mains reasons why the vast majority of environmental criminal proceedings are terminated on insufficient grounds to proceed with public charges.

The main author of the report is Stephan Sina, Senior Fellow at the Ecologic Institute.

Networks and NGOs relevant for fighting environmental crime

Environmental enforcement networks and NGOs play an increasingly significant role in combating environmental crime through a variety of advocacy and enforcement activities. In their study on these important actors, Lucy Smith and Katharina Klaas identify some significant networks and NGOs currently active in the field; they describe the particular skills and capacities of these actors in the enforcement of environmental law and advocacy on environmental crime issues.

While the behaviour of networks and NGOs is highly diverse, the examples highlight their unique ability to improve cooperation between different types of actors (national authorities, international organizations and civil society) at multiple levels (national, EU and international). The creation of environmental enforcement networks has fostered intense contact between professionals and practitioners on the operational level. This has been effective in breaking down some of the existing barriers that inhibit inter-agency cooperation, and improved enforcement.

NGOs make important contributions in investigating environmental crimes and in presenting information to law enforcement authorities to bring about prosecution in specific cases. NGOs have also become active as facilitators of  trainings concerning transnational environmental crime, particularly wildlife crime. It becomes clear that the active engagement of networks and NGOs is contributing to the development of new cooperative enforcement and security structures that are cross-sectoral and multi-level orientated.

Reports compiled by EFFACE partner institutions

General studies

National level: Selected EU Member States

Several country reports present the regulatory framework, actors and institutions relevant for fighting environmental crime in various EU Member States. These countries have been selected as being representatives of the different regions of the EU; they also represent different types of legal system (common and civil law systems):

International Level

EU Level

More content from this project

Project ID
Environmental Crime, organised crime, environmental law, criminal law, administrative law, environmental enforcement networks, NGOs
Global, EU, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland, France, Spain, UK