Consultative meeting for establishing Environmental Taskforce for tackling environmental criminal offenses
On March 30, 2021, the Center for Legal Research and Analysis in Hotel Solun held a consultative meeting for the establishment of an Environmental Taskforce for tackling environmental criminal offenses. The meeting was attended by representatives of SEI, MASA, MoEPP, MoI, BPPO, AJPPO, Association of the units of local self-government of the RNM, NGOs Ecosvest, Milieukontakt, MYLA, and Front 21/24. The purpose of this meeting was to present the idea of establishing a Taskforce for dealing with environmental crimes at the national level that will conduct an effective and efficient criminal investigation and prosecution of illegal acts against the environment before national courts.
The idea is this Taskforce to be included: police forces, environmental experts, and public prosecutors for combating environmental violations in coordination with representatives of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, the State Environmental Inspectorate, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In the introductory part, the program manager at CLRA, Nikola Jovanovski gave a brief overview of the activities and expected results of the project “Environmental Governance Project”, within which the establishment of this Taskforce is envisaged. It was emphasized that the primary goals of the Taskforce will be:
- to effectively investigate and ultimately prosecute environmental crimes and other illegal acts which directly harm environment, wildlife, biodiversity and natural resources;
- to facilitate the use of environmental justice considerations in compliance and enforcement programs and enhance communications with community members to maximize benefits in areas where breaches to environmental laws are most frequent;
- to improve communication with communities and public regarding environmental justice concerns and the benefits of compliance and enforcements actions.
Academician Kambovski followed up, supporting the initiative and emphasizing that the time period is perfectly suitable for such a project because in our country there is a big discrepancy in legislation and practice, ie although the right to a healthy environment is constitutionally guaranteed, and is a public interest, in practice we see the opposite. He said the environment was the object of an unprotected attack. The evident progress of the civil society organizations that have begun to put pressure for a healthy environment is also welcomed, which is a key point for the development of social life. Professor Kambovski stressed that the Constitution should be amended because it does not provide direct guarantees for environmental protection.
Mr. Blinkov from SEI shared with the attendees that in the past 13-14 years they have been actively involved in environmental protection together with the MoEPP, MoI, AJPP with which they have had many trainings for judges and public prosecutors. The biggest problem they face is poor centralization, especially in terms of waste management. With this, Ms. Ivana Serafimova from the Association of the units of local self-government strongly agreed, emphasizing the fact that as long as the inspectors are paid by the mayors, the decision of the inspector will not be credible. Therefore, as a proposal for overcoming this problem, centralization or regionalization of the inspection services was given.
Aleksandra Karakashova Sachkarska shared with the audience that the first Aarhus Center has been established within Mileukontakt, which works on the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention and is currently working on monitoring the websites of institutions. She singled out the third pillar as the most problematic, ie the access to justice.
Ms. Serafimovska also welcomed the initiative, emphasizing that the task force has a solid composition where all structures are accepted, all institutions have a solid hierarchy but believes that the key role is played by inspection services, which unfortunately have a weak capacity.
The consultative meeting ended with a positive note and support from all present, emphasizing that they are waiting for the Work Plan of the Taskforce, which will be prepared in the coming period.