[JURIST] The European Court of Justice [official website] ruled [judgment text; press release, PDF] Tuesday that the European Union can require member states to criminally prosecute companies that violate EU environmental laws. The decision was made in response to a 2001 lawsuit brought by the European Commission [official website] against the 25 EU governments for not writing the criminal prosecution of environmental violators into legislation that the commission had drafted. The governments wanted to leave the decision for criminal prosecution to individual national authorities, but the high court disagreed, saying that the issue of pollution is a cross-border issue and the decision will allow the commission to make its legislation as effective as possible. The Commission welcomed [press release] Tuesday's ruling, calling it a ground-breaking decision that will "strengthens democracy and efficiency in the European Union." European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] also noted that criminal penalties will only be drafted for "particularly serious offenses." AP has more.