The EU's Role in Combating Environmental Crime

In addition to strengthening national watchdog organizations, the EU could increase funding opportunities for environmental protection groups and increase EU transparency when negotiating agreements with RA by engaging with the public. Providing more support for organizations which monitor government agencies such as law enforcement and special environmental task forces to assure they are acting in law-abiding ways is another way the EU can help combat environmental crime in RA (Transparency International 2013a).

The EU can use their influence to reinforce current international laws that discourage environmental crime in RA. In 2004, NGOs presented a case to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) claiming that RA was not compliant with the Aarhus Convention. Upon review, the UNECE agreed and has since pressured RA to take steps to become compliant (Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee 2006). Additionally, the World Bank has been developing a new Convention compliant EIA Law with RA (World Bank 2013). The EU could support international bodies such as the UNECE and World Bank in their efforts to help RA abide by international law while pressuring them to be more receptive to NGO concerns in accordance with the Aarhus Convention and other international treaties.

The EU can use its position as RA’s main trading partner and largest import and export market to its advantage when discouraging environmental crime (European Commission 2014b). The EU proposed financial aid to RA for 2014—2017 ranges from €140 to €170 million (European Commission 2014a). RA’s closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan have limited Armenian economic activity and play a role in RA’s heavy dependency on international assistance. In response to past international recommendations, including those given by the EU, to enact anti-corruption measures, RA complied. However, these measures have proved to be mostly symbolic as a means to continue to receive foreign aid. The EU can use its economic position to encourage RA to enact policies that are truly effective in combating environmental crime and compliant with international law as a term of continuing current business relations and financial assistance (Borzel and Pamuk 2011).

There exists a double gap in the RA mining sector which fuels environmental crime in this area. There is a gap between national law and international commitments and a gap between national law and its enforcement and adjudication. In order to mitigate environmental crime in RA, the EU needs to address both gaps. In respect to the first gap, the EU can pressure RA to honour its environmental commitments as well as help it to develop legislation which will be in compliance with these international agreements. Reminding the RA government of its international obligations so that they are enforced in RA will also serve to strengthen the most important pro-environmental actors in RA, namely local movements and NGOs. EU support for these actors in other ways, such as through technical support and funding, can also strengthen their ability to address environmental crimes in their own country. The EU can play a role in addressing the second gap as well. The EU could provide incentives to EU owned companies working in RA’s mining sector to operate in environmentally responsible and transparent ways. The EU could further use its civilian and normative power to convince the RA to enforce national and international law as a term of doing business.

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