The European Union is facing significant challenges simultaneously. The Russian aggression in Ukraine has destabilised European security and shows the necessity of a self-reliant Union, with a stronger defence cooperation. The fastest and largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II further underlines the urgency on the New Pact on Asylum and Migration.
At the same time, organised crime has never before posed as large a threat to the security of the European Union and to the safety of its citizens. It disrupts citizens’ everyday lives and threatens our internal market, free enterprise and economic growth. It causes financial damage to the Union and its Member States and thereby threatens to heavily disrupt the rule of law and, consequently, the functioning of our democracies.
The safety of people is a primary priority for the EPP Group in the European Parliament.
The safety of people is a primary priority for the EPP Group in the European Parliament. It is clear to us that combating organised crime requires a clear and bold approach in order to fight it at its core. We are now able to put forward fifty concrete proposals to strengthen the fight against criminal networks in the European Union, the main measures are:
1. Create an operative Europol
Europol is one of the most important agencies of the European Union with regard to preventing, responding to and combating organised crime. In the long-term, Europol should be given an extended operational role and become an operational police force, mandated to initiate and carry out investigations into cross-border organised crimes that pose a serious threat to the internal security of the Union.
2. Follow the money
The primary motivation behind all forms of organised crime is financial gain. Today, only two percent of proceeds from organised crime is frozen and only one percent is confiscated. Money laundering is common practice and criminals exploit the fragmentation of anti-money laundering laws in the Member States. These loopholes must be closed and law enforcement and tax authorities must be given better operational and investigative tools to ‘follow the money’.
‘Following the money’ will also target the leadership of criminal networks as well as those financially benefitting from corruption. Disrupting the financial gains of crime must be a priority.
3. Stop high-risk criminal networks
An increasingly common problem faced by many Member States is high-risk criminal networks, notably mafia-type, ethnic and family-based organisations and other structured networks. Many of these networks also create parallel legal systems and codes of honour which limit the rights and freedoms of others, especially of girls and women. We therefore want Europol to establish a special unit solely focused on stopping high-risk criminal networks.
4. Fight trafficking
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has further escalated the cruel work of human traffickers, putting vulnerable woman and children at risk of sexual exploitation. We also regularly witness human traffickers using refugees and migrants for their criminal activity. In this regard, regaining control of the external border is urgent. It is the Member States of the European Union that shall decide who is allowed entry into the Union - not human traffickers and smuggling networks. We must also improve cross-border cooperation and intensify all efforts to fight trafficking and smuggling crimes and end the impunity of the criminals.
5. Combat corruption
The smuggling of weapons, drugs and people into the European Union is made possible through corruption, which is present at all levels of European societies. A study by the European Commission estimates that 60 percent of criminal networks engage in corruption. According to the 2021 Global Corruption Barometer, 76 percent of EU citizens think corruption has stayed the same or has increased in their country. It is clear that much more must be done to combat corruption. Member States should be encouraged to increase the penalties for corruption in their national legislation.
6. Increase international cooperation
More than half of all suspected members of criminal networks in the EU are non-EU citizens, a majority of which originate from the Western Balkans, eastern European countries and North Africa. This emphasises the importance of increasing international cooperation with countries of origin and like-minded countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to successfully target the recruitment of criminal networks.
National security is the primary responsibility of the Member States but the threats posed to the EU by organised crime require a common European response. For the EPP Group, our priority is to ensure the safety of our citizens from criminals.
Note to editors
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 176 Members from all EU Member States