Biodiversity and Environmental Crimes

The 2005 Law No. 02/L-18 on Nature Conservation and the 2010 Law No. 03/L-233 on Nature Protection offer clear examples of the problems of depending on criminal law that uses EU environmental legislation as a normative reference to protect the environment. The Law on Nature Protection of 2010 not only seeks to transpose the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, but also refers to them to determine ‘species of the Community interest’ and ‘priority species’ according to their annexes.[1] The referral to external instruments could constitute a breach of the principle of legality that must inform criminal law, particularly in a system such as the Kosovar one. The incorporation of the EU environmental law into secondary legislation must be a pre-requisite of its enforcement by criminal law.

The system on ecologically important areas is also firmly linked with EU environmental law and the Natura 2000 Network in which Kosovo is now included. The different nature conservation zones and ecologically important areas must be designated by the national assembly, the government or municipalities. Until the process of designation is achieved, the law cannot be fully enforced. Hitherto, two national laws have been promulgated in 2012 for the national parks of Bjeshket e Nemuna and Sharri, expanding protected area to 10.9 % of the territory of Kosovo (Veselaj and Mustafa 2015). Now a further development of general concepts, such as a conservation status, is also required in order to prosecute those activities that cross a threshold of damage that cannot be infringed upon.

The network of legally protected areas was heavily damaged during and after the last war in Kosovo (1998-99; Mustafa et al. 2011). However, Mustafa et al. (2013) consider most of these protected areas as just ‘so-called parks on paper’ due to the fact that ‘despite having the legal mandate,... objectives of management are still on paper, because of the lack of capacities of management authorities to monitor and enforce conservation purposes and objectives’ (p. 608). To this day, there is no Red List species for Kosovo (Veselaj and Mustafa 2015). Animal species are without any legal protection and ‘hunting laws have not spared even some species that are protected by international conventions and European Union directives (Birds and Habitat Directive)’ (Veselaj et al. 2012, p. 309).

Kosovo’s environment is increasingly strained due to attempts to overcome endemic poverty and relaunch economic activities without including the most basic environmental requirements in the design of public policies and plans. Experts consider that ‘in the recent decades, populations of many species in Kosovo are in dramatic decline. This mainly happens due to destruction of natural habitats by humans, with or without being aware of it, for their own survival. Intensification of human activities as a result of growth of industry, energy, transport, agriculture, forestry, tourism, etc., still continues to impact on natural habitats by fragmenting them, leaving but small areas for wild flora and fauna’ (Mustafa et al. 2011, p. 651). These problems are the main threats to nature in every European country and are also the problems that the EU tries to solve through better implementation of European environmental legislation, using criminal law to enhance compliance with its obligations. The difficulties that the European member states experience when implementing this legislation are magnified in Kosovo.

In 2013, the MESP began measures to combat illegal construction activities in the Sharri National Park. However, the Natura 2000 Network of protected areas has not yet been established and the institutions in this area remain weak in terms of the numbers and skills of civil servants and state inspectors designated for the protection of the environment (European Commission 2014, p. 41).

  • [1] See Law No. 03/L-233 on Nature Protection, 2010, available at
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