First, Environment Commissioner Dimas was in Estonia in 2006 to look at the Probo Koala, the ship that dumped toxic waste in Abidjan. The ship had been prevented from leaving port by Greenpeace.
He made a very forthright statement on 28 September 2006:
My visit here was unfortunately precipitated by a series of tragic events, most notably on the Ivory Coast where an illegal shipment of European toxic waste caused health and environmental havoc among the population. Such highly toxic waste should have never left the European Union. European and international laws were broken. There is no excuse for it. What happened was not only unethical in the most profound sense of the word, but it was criminal. What is more, I fear that the Probo Koala incident is only the tip of the iceberg. And so I decided to come here; You can call it a fact finding mission, but is more than that.
First and foremost, I want give my full support to the efforts of the Estonian authorities in their quest to prosecute the criminals who perpetrated this crime.
Secondly, I want to raise awareness about the practices of illegal shipping of toxic waste. European governments need to be more aware of what is happening in their harbours and on their ships. And what needs to be done to prevent another such disaster. And when I return to Brussels, I will seek ways and means to reinforce the existing waste shipment regulation and its implementation by the Member States.I also plan to put forward a proposal to criminalise certain environmentally damaging practices such as the one perpetrated. I am looking forward to discussing these issues at the next environmental council and hope for support of my initiatives also from the European Council. Finally, let me extend my thanks to Greenpeace which took a decisive step by preventing the departure of the Probo Koala.
The Greens in the European Parliament are going to find what emerged from Commissioner Dimas' undertakings.
A report on the European environmental news and information service (ENDS) reinforces his intentions:
The commissioner said he would now "seek ways and means to reinforce the existing waste shipment regulation and its implementation by the Member States." A new version of the regulation will enter force next year following a lengthy revision process that ended earlier this year. The commission will first see how member states implement it and then "propose further changes if necessary".
"I also plan to put forward a proposal to criminalise certain environmentally damaging practices such as the one perpetrated," Mr Dimas said. This could result in the retabling of a commission proposal for minimum EU standards for punishing environmental crimes. Last year the commission won a court case against EU member states over its right to make proposals in the field (EED 13/09/06). "If there is a case that shows it’s necessary, this is it," Mr Dimas’s spokeswoman said.
The waste was undoubtedly toxic, and exporting toxic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries is illegal pursuant to Art. 36 of the waste shipment regulation:
Article (36) : Efficient international cooperation regarding control of shipments of waste is instrumental in ensuring that shipments of hazardous waste are controlled. Information
exchange, shared responsibility and cooperative efforts between the Community and its Member States and third countries should be promoted with a view to ensuring
sound management of waste.
Trafigura is trying to avoid the waste charge by defining the discharge as "slops" but it is most definitely waste products from the processing of coker naphtha at sea.
If the Commissioner has let the trail go cold, this is an opportunity for us to get writing to our MEPs to make them earn their allowances.