Illegal wildlife trade 'serious threat to our security'

A cross party interest group has been launched in the European parliament to combat wildlife crime.
Sirpa Pietikäinen (FI) is the EPP's wildlife interest group representative

The establishment of this group of MEPs for wildlife is timely and necessary. Up to now, wildlife protection has not received the attention it needs. With this coordinated approach, we can more effectively influence and monitor issues on wildlife crime and unsustainable practices.

One of the concrete actions in the near future will be to monitor the implementation of the commission's decision to ban the import of unsustainable hunting trophies. Banning all hunting trophy imports should a long-term goal. 

To understand more about the unsustainable aspects of trophy hunting, I would like to welcome you to a seminar, which will be attended by South African photojournalist Ian Michler. It will take place in parliament 17 March, from 17h00 to 19h00 in room ASP 1 E 2.

Pavel Poc (CZ) is the S&D's wildlife interest group representative

I am extremely proud that the European parliament adopted the 2013 resolution on wildlife crime by an overwhelming majority, and to see that the new parliament continues to support the fight against the illegal trade by setting up a wildlife interest group. 

"A comprehensive EU action plan would ensure that coordinated action is taken across all policy areas, from development aid to justice and home affairs" - Catherine Bearder

We must get this issue back on the agenda and come up with effective solutions as soon as possible. The EU must make ending wildlife crime a priority by establishing an EU action plan against the illegal wildlife trade, with clear timelines and objectives.

There are many ways in which both the commission and member states could strengthen their capacity to more effectively combat wildlife trade, including the training of prosecutors. 

If wildlife trade is taken up in the transatlantic trade and investment partnership deal, the commission must guarantee effective legal regimes and improve channels of communication.

Catherine Bearder (UK) is ALDE's wildlife interest group representative

Momentum is now building as governments around the world wake up to the threat wildlife crime poses to global security. China has just announced a ban on ivory imports ahead of this week's visit by prince William. Both the US and UK have made tackling wildlife crime a foreign policy priority. Yet the

EU has still not accorded this pressing issue the importance it deserves. 

That is why I have launched the cross-party MEPs for wildlife group to put the fight against wildlife crime at the top of the EU's agenda. Led by one MEP from each of parliament's seven political groups, it will build support across the political spectrum for the EU to step up the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. 

Last year MEPs overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling on the commission to come up with an EU action plan against wildlife crime. Now it is up to team Juncker to deliver it. A comprehensive EU action plan would ensure that coordinated action is taken across all policy areas, from development aid to justice and home affairs. We cannot wait any longer. It is time for the EU to show it is serious about tackling wildlife crime.

Benedek Jávor (HU) is the Greens/EFA's wildlife group interest group representative

As member of the MEPs for wildlife interest group, I would like to point out the links between wildlife crime and wider biodiversity and natural capital issues. We are all aware of the most common wildlife crimes, including illegal hunting, illegal trade and poaching. However, we should also pay attention to activities that affect wildlife more indirectly, such as the destruction of wildlife habitats or the pollution of waterways.

As stated by the European environment agency's freshly released European environment state and outlook 2015 report, the main EU target of halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services by 2020 remains a serious challenge.

"If wildlife trade is taken up in the transatlantic trade and investment partnership deal, the commission must guarantee effective legal regimes and improve channels of communication" - Pavel Poc

Our cross-party initiative on wildlife crime will keep the pressure on the commission to propose an EU action plan against wildlife crime. We believe that such an action plan would substantially contribute to the better implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 and to reversing the trends of biodiversity erosion and ecosystem degradation. 

Stephan Eck (DE) is the GUE/NGL's wildlife interest group representative

The diversity of wild animals has decreased dramatically over the last 200 years due to human activities. Wild animals are used for many different purposes, such as food, medicine, clothing and pets. Wildlife is also significantly threatened by man-made climate change. 

Another reason for this loss of diversity is wildlife crime, which has grown significantly in recent decades. It often involves transnational organised criminal networks and the financing of militant rebel groups. This illicit traffic is a threat to animal welfare and to local communities. 

The EU is a major transit destination for illegal wildlife products such as ivory and live animals and is therefore in a privileged position to control this shameful trade. Preventing and sanctioning wildlife crime is in line with Europe's international obligations and commitments. Therefore, it is vital to engage with civil society, policymakers and the general public to combat the illegal wildlife trade by all means at our disposal, including political pressure by this house. 

If the EU wishes to play a genuine leading role in the protection of endangered species, it has to be more active in measures to tackle wildlife crime in international negotiations. The EU should also create the most appropriate legal framework and the conditions of implementation that will ensure that all loopholes contributing to this illicit trade end at its borders. 

The launch of MEP for wildlife is a first step to counter the extinction of wild animals and to protect nature.

Marco Affronte (IT) is the EFDD's wildlife interest group representative

The fight against wildlife trade is fuelled by more than a simple interest in environmental protection - wildlife trade also represents a serious threat to our security. A large amount of international and domestic illegal commerce of wild fauna products, including fish and wood, is managed by sophisticated criminal networks. 

"As stated by the European environment agency's freshly released European environment state and outlook 2015 report, the main EU target of halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services by 2020 remains a serious challenge" - Benedek Jávor

Profits from wild fauna traffic are used to buy weapons, subsidise civil wars and possibly terrorist activities. According to research carried out by the world wildlife foundation, the involvement of criminal organisation and groups of rebels in crime against wild fauna has increased.

The united nations have pointed out the links between elephant poaching and the lord's resistance army, a military group that acts in various African countries and has been accused of several human rights violations.

Adam Roberts is the CEO of the born free foundation

Today, global attention is appropriately focused on the devastating plight of many of the world's most iconic species - elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions, sharks and pangolins - in some cases pushed to the brink of extinction by the illegal wildlife trade. The governments of major consumer markets, such as China, the US and the EU, have a responsibility to help stop the slaughter. 

The MEPs for wildlife interest group has a vital role to play in ensuring that the EU delivers an effective and rapidly implemented action plan to tackle wildlife crime, support both internal and external measures to improve law enforcement, disrupt the organised crime syndicates behind the illegal trade and conserve species at risk. 

The born free foundation, along with other non-governmental organisations, stands ready to assist, advise and support MEPs for wildlife in their vitally important mission.

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