The European Parliament’s new laws to crack down on illegal ship source pollution have been dismissed as “over-zealous” by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil, who voted against them last week.
An overwhelming majority of MEPs voted in favour of the tough new rules which for the first time provide criminal sanctions for deliberately polluting EU waters in a bid to stamp out environmental disasters.
For Busuttil, the laws “went too far” in treating accidental pollution as criminal offences, but many other MEPs thought otherwise.
“I am very happy with the overwhelming majority I received from MEPs for the agreement reached between council, commission and the Parliament,” said parliament’s rapporteur Corien Wortmann-Kool. “After long discussions and negotiation with the council, now reckless or serious negligence can be prosecuted.”
The European Commission proposals were prompted by the Prestige oil spill in 2002 on the Spanish and French coast, killing thousands of birds and damaging hundreds of kilometres of coastline in France and Spain.
The plans had been blocked at EU member states level over disagreement over whether the law should provide criminal sanctions.
Malta joined Greece and Cyprus – all having large shipping industries –in opposing the law at EU councils of ministers.
Busuttil said the laws were illogical because they go beyond current international conventions and because they placed shipping in the EU at a disadvantage when compared to shipping outside EU waters.
“We should be making an effort to improve the effectiveness of international conventions and not seek to compete with them,” Busuttil said. “At a time when we are striving to improve competitiveness and create jobs, we have to be careful not to legislate in a way that can create a disincentive for the important maritime industry to stay in Europe.”
Busuttil called for adopting “a practical approach that can help us reach our goals in an effective, yet pragmatic manner”.
According to the new proposals, the EU will also carry out a feasibility study on establishing a European Coastguard service.
The European Maritime Service Agency will assist EU countries in tracing illegal discharges through satellite monitoring and surveillance.