Illegal trade in wildlife is a serious worldwide business. Europe is one of the world’s largest and most diverse markets for wildlife products. Besides the loss of habitats and the decline of ecosystems, this is a major threat to the survival of rare and endangered species. Regulation of international movement of wildlife and wildlife products is acknowledged internationally as an important element of effective nature conservation. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora came into force 1975. The establishment of the European Single Market and legislation on nature protection raised the need for new and more comprehensive EU regulations, thus the Wildlife Trade Regulation came into force in 1997. The new member states and accession countries need enhanced capacities to be able to face the challenges arising from their status as the outside borders of the EU.

Recognizing this, CEEweb member organizations decided to establish the CITES Working Group dedicated to fight illegal trade in wildlife. It aims to provide its members with a platform for information exchange and enhance their capacities with regards to the relevant legislation frameworks. Through its common communication strategy the Working Group targets all relevant stakeholders, including scientific and management authorities, police and customs officers and raises awareness taking into account the relevant regulations.

The CITES Working Group of CEEweb focuses on the enhancement of the implementation of the CITES in Central and Eastern Europe and pays special attention for the implementation of the provisions of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulation [regulation (EC) 338/97] which goes beyond CITES in several aspects. The application of the provisions of EU-WTR and awareness raising among key stakeholders concerning the CITES and the EU-WTR will definitely contribute to the enlargement process. This is of special importance as many CEE countries, after the enlargement process became border-countries of the EU, with important mission in the regulation of the trade with endangered animals and plants.

The CITES Working Group has a special focus on the outer borders of the (envisaged) enlarged EU as well as on the international airports (as these are the points where specimens can be smuggled inside the EU). To maximize effect it’s very important to create different awareness raising strategies for the different stakeholders (for example enhance the sense of responsibility of the custom officers, win the sympathy of the consumers, etc.). The WG should be the initiator and should catalyze the development of regional cooperation between different stakeholder groups.

With suggestions or questions please contact Borys Kala, the Chair of the Working Group.