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Reform Support

Supporting reforms to transition to a green economy and fight climate change

Strengthening Environmental Crime Enforcement in Austria 

The Commission supports g the development of policy options for an environmental strategy, together with a plan and roadmap. The environmental strategy focuses on how to establish a National Environmental Security Taskforce (NEST-like) structure, designed to address transnational environmental crime. The project also aims to enhance the capabilities of prosecutors and judges environmental crime prosecution and improves the communication and cooperation among relevant national authorities. 

Context 

In 2019, the Council of Europe published the result of the mutual evaluation on the implementation and operation of the policies on preventing and combating Environmental crime in Austria. The report identified several shortcomings in environmental crime enforcement. Among them, the report noted the absence of a national strategy, communication between different authorities and a centralised body for the coordination of the fight against environmental crime. As a result, the Austrian Ministry of Interior requested support from the European Commission to address the weaknesses identified. The project falls also within the scope of the 2018 Commissions’ Action Plan, which aims to increase compliance with EU environmental rules and is aligned with the 2020-2022 work programme of the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum. 

Support delivered 

The beneficiary of this technical support project is the Austrian Ministry of Interior. The support is provided in collaboration with the Centre for International Legal Cooperation, and structured around the following key outputs:  

  • Developing policy options for an environmental strategy, together with a roadmap and action plan: this component was launched with a baseline study and invited relevant parties from Austria on a study visit to the Netherlands and France
  • Enhancing skills of prosecutors and judges on environmental crime prosecution: A training program was developed in collaboration with the judicial academy of the Ministry of Justice and provided to prosecutors and judges from various regions in Austria by Dutch and Austrian experts
  • Communication and change management strategy: this output will support the improvement of the communication and cooperation among relevant national authorities. Workshops will be held with input from international experts on environmental crime enforcement communication from France and the Netherlands  

Results achieved 

An increased understanding of environmental crime, as well as an awareness of each authority’s role in crime enforcement, will stimulate and improve the reporting of such crimes. Moreover, improved communication between the relevant authorities will allow for the consistent exchange of strategic and operational knowledge. Agreements and guidelines on how to work together on training, expertise, documentation, communication and awareness-raising will strengthen collaboration and bring it up to an institutional level. Overall, the project is expected to result in the following outcomes: 

  • Improved investigative capabilities 
  • Enhanced specialisation of prosecutors and judges  
  • Improved communication and cooperation among relevant national authorities, including at the European and international level

More about the project