Environmental crime is growing. A 5 to 7% yearly growth in number of offenses in past years has turned it into one of the leading crimes on both the global and the European stage – the UN considers it now the fourth largest criminal area in the world. Low risks of prosecution, high revenues and lack of tools by the judiciary and law enforcement authorities have motivated organised and non-organised crime to expand into areas such as wildlife and timber trade or waste trafficking. The EU is at the centre of such worrying trends: as the first economy and trading bloc in the world, the Union is one of the leading destination or transit hub for goods smuggled by environmental crime. The unique natural resources of Member States such as Romania or Poland as well as the significant demand for cheap waste disposal in countries such as Italy or Germany make Europe an appealing theatre for traffickers. The consequences of all of this are devastating – not only for the environment, but also for the whole European economy and society, which rely on the fragile natural equilibrium ensured by its ecosystems.
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