Category Archives: Fight against organised crime

Organised crime is a threat to the economy and society in Europe. The European Union’s response in the fight against organised crime is adapted to the complexity of this phenomenon and is directed at both trafficking in human beings, arms and drugs and economic and financial crime, corruption and money laundering. It also covers the new dimensions of organised crime, such as cybercrime and environmental crime.
The integrated approach guiding the action of the EU extends from prevention to law enforcement. This is based essentially on effective cooperation between the authorities of the Member States, and especially the law enforcement agencies, including the exchange of information and mutual assistance in seizures and confiscations. The fight against organised crime is global, affecting many areas of the EU’s action and policies.

Strategic concept on tackling organised crime

Strategic concept on tackling organised crime

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Strategic concept on tackling organised crime


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Strategic concept on tackling organised crime

Document or Iniciative

Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament of 2 June 2005: “Developing a strategic concept on tackling organised crime” [COM(2005) 232 – Not published in the Official Journal].


The Council asked the EU institutions and bodies involved in the prevention of and fight against crime to develop the specific framework of action in this field, balancing prevention, law enforcement and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Communication is the Commission’s contribution to developing a strategy to tackle organised crime. Its purpose is to identify and define political, legislative and operational policies for the coming years in line with the Hague Programme.

Several legislative and non-legislative initiatives contributing to preventive, criminal law and procedural law have been approved at EU level since the 1990s. The objective is therefore to assess their scope and fill identified gaps. The financial means should be made available to implement the acquis and prepare fresh initiatives.

Develop in-depth knowledge and share information

It is not easy to define organised crime because it takes different forms at a time characterised by globalisation and sophisticated modern technologies. The challenges of terrorism make the task even more complex.

To develop appropriate tools, knowledge about organised crime and the vulnerabilities of licit sectors must be collected and updated. A European crime statistics system will thus be set up and developed in collaboration with the Member States.

The Commission stresses the importance of an EU intelligence-led law enforcement policy based on the availability of and access to information and greater transparency between law enforcement authorities at European and international level.

Within this policy, a “European Criminal Intelligence Model” should be developed which would enable European assessment of the organised crime threat. By synchronising national and European activities in this field based on a common methodology, Europol should provide an important tool for identifying action to be taken.

Research programmes also deal with organised crime. The Sixth Research Framework Programme and the Preparatory Action for Security Research finance projects that focus on a specific security issue.

Prevent organised crime

An effective organised crime prevention policy cannot be based on police cooperation alone. Certain Member States have, for example, been innovative in using an administrative approach to prevent criminal organisations from penetrating legal markets with the help of administrative procedures. The Commission aims to develop a model to assess the crime-proofing of legislation and new products and services at risk. This could be widely disseminated at EU level.

The Commission considers that the fight against corruption should be based on a comprehensive approach including criminal law measures, promotion of integrity in public administration and monitoring national anti-corruption policies.

Public-private partnerships constitute an effective tool for preventing crime in general and organised crime in particular. The aim of the Action Plan proposed by the Commission in 2006 is to strengthen private sector cooperation with law enforcement authorities.

To support the introduction of the instruments adopted and develop others, the Commission proposes allocating corresponding financial means. Under the Financial Perspective 2007-2013, a new crime programme will be set up as part of the Security and Safeguarding Liberties Framework Programme.

Strengthen tools and improve cooperation

The Commission focuses on strengthening investigations relating to organised crime via:

  • encouraging the use of joint investigation teams;
  • speeding up the obtaining of evidence by means of the European Evidence Warrant and simplifying the admissibility of evidence by underlining the principle of mutual recognition;
  • addressing the collection, protection and exchange of electronic evidence;
  • data retention for electronic communication services, maintaining a balance between effective law enforcement, the protection of fundamental rights and the financial burden caused to service suppliers;
  • creating a European witness protection programme.

Concerning the strengthening of tools to fight financial crime, the Commission proposes:

  • enhancing the legal framework for the freezing and confiscation of criminal proceeds by further developing financial investigation skills;
  • developing adequate information exchange by financial intelligence units.

Close attention is given to promoting cooperation on the ground between the police and customs authorities of the Member States and with Europol and Eurojust. Their potential should be fully exploited and information flow should be improved via an appropriate information system.

The Commission proposes:

  • enhancing the coordination of operations carried out by Europol and Eurojust concerning organised crime;
  • promoting training and exchange programmes via the European Police College (CEPOL);
  • collaborating more efficiently with the European Border Management Agency and developing an integrated risk analysis model.

Data exchange should operate in accordance with the principle of availability. The Commission plans to present a draft decision on this matter in 2006. It will address the issues of common standards of access to databases and the interoperability of national and European databases. These databases should progressively use the same standards and compatible technologies to ensure the selective exchange of law-enforcement data while taking into account the appropriate inter-linkages with international databases.

Personal data protection and data security measures, concerning in particular proportionality, integrity and confidentiality of data and effective legal remedies, must proceed along with these extended possibilities. The Commission presented a legislative proposal on this subject in 2006.

The EU’s initiatives are being developed in the framework of international agreements. Internal security is closely linked to external security. The EU therefore promotes international cooperation and intends to be party to various international instruments such as the United Nations Conventions on Transnational Organised Crime and Corruption.

To prevent and combat crime, it is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the instruments adopted and propose others that would meet the needs and challenges posed by criminal activities. The harmonisation of legislation on offences and penalties should complement the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions in criminal matters.

From 2006 the Council should identify its priorities on the basis of the annual organised crime threat assessments carried out by Europol.

Crime prevention in the EU

Crime prevention in the EU

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Crime prevention in the EU


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Crime prevention in the EU

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament – Crime prevention in the European Union.


Crimes such as domestic burglaries, thefts from vehicles, common assault and street robberies are among the primary concerns of European citizens. These crimes fall under the three broad priority areas identified by the Tampere European Council: juvenile, urban and drug-related crime.

This communication discusses how to prevent * these types of crime, which are referred to as volume (non-organised crime) crime * because they include all types of frequent crimes whose victims are easily identifiable. Volume crime generally targets property and is often accompanied by physical violence. The seriousness of this type of crime should not be underestimated: the financial cost to society is high, and it is often the first step down the road to more serious forms of crime, such as organised crime.

Trends in crime

The nature and volume of crime at European Union level can be measured by two main sources: (i) official crime statistics registered by the police and (ii) the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS). As regards the first source, it is not possible to compare absolute and relative numbers between Member States because of the many differences between Member States as regards legislation and the different ways in which official crime statistics are produced. However, for trends in time, these data can be useful.

The trend in the crime level from 1950 to 1970 shows a steady increase. After 1970, however, crime levels rose more rapidly, peaking in the middle of the 1980s. Since 1990 the total amount of registered crime has remained fairly stable in the EU-15 Member States. The average annual percentage increase between 1991 and 2001 was around 1 %.

This communication examines two specific types of crimes: domestic burglaries * and violent crime *. In 2000, police forces recorded three domestic burglaries per minute in the 15 Member States; this reduction compared to previous figures was due to a number of factors including increased preventive behaviour among the population. The same year, however, also saw an increase in violent crime at European level.

Opinion polls show that individuals feel less and less secure, particularly women and the elderly.

Combating volume crime: practical examples

Prevention * must encompass not only crime in the strict sense of the term, but also “anti-social behaviour”. It has been proven that, if well designed and implemented, preventive measures can help reduce crime.

For example, leaving a light on when you are not at home, installing additional locks on doors and windows, increasing outside lighting and having an alarm system and/or a guard dog are preventive measures that reduce the risk of burglary. Simply increasing street lighting has reduced crime by approximately 20 %.

In North America, the Perry programme provides enrichment courses for 3-4 year olds from low-income families plus weekly home visits by programme staff. Long-term follow-ups revealed that programme participants have significantly lower juvenile and adult arrest rates, and also significantly higher rates of high school completion, tertiary education, employment and earnings.

Similarly, the European Union’s Youth programme, which began in the late 1980s and focuses on well-being, inclusion and increasing policymakers’ awareness of the concerns of young people, has had considerable preventive effect.

Finally, strong support has been given to the European Prison Education Association (EPEA) since providing training both in prison and following release is essential in helping former prisoners reintegrate into society.

Preventive action: priorities for action

This communication recommends approaching the issue on two levels: the local level and the European level.

Because volume crime occurs mainly at local level in cities, it is there that policies tailored to local and/or regional conditions must be implemented. In this respect the establishment of national crime prevention policies is a major prerequisite. A typical characteristic of preventive measures is therefore the necessary involvement of a variety of actors, both public (police, local governments, social workers) and private (business associations, insurance companies, citizens’ organisations).

These policies have to be accompanied by effective cooperation measures at EU level where advantage needs to be taken of the work undertaken by the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) and the EU funding arrangements, namely the Hippocrates and AGIS programmes run by the European Commission.

For the purposes of this communication, the Commission considers the following to be the primary tasks and activities to be carried out at EU level:

  • exchange experience between policymakers and experts in prevention;
  • define and agree priorities for action;
  • agree on crime prevention policies/measures which have been proven to work (good practices);
  • find agreement on common methodologies to prepare, implement and evaluate prevention policies;
  • make European citizens aware of the usefulness of crime prevention;
  • undertake joint prevention projects;
  • monitor and evaluate national prevention policies and improve the comparability of national statistics so as to identify differences between the level of crimes.


The legal basis for crime prevention activities at EU level is Article 29 of the Amsterdam Treaty, which cites the prevention of “organised or other” crime as one means of meeting the objective of providing citizens with a high level of protection in an area of freedom, security and justice.

Until the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in May 1999, crime prevention policies at EU level had been limited mostly to the prevention of organised crime. The European Council of Tampere in 1999 confirmed the importance of effective crime prevention policies in the EU.

On 29 November 2000 the Commission submitted a communication to the Council and the European Parliament on “The prevention of crime in the European Union: Reflection on common guidelines and proposals for Community financial support”. Following this communication, important developments have taken place, such as the creation of the European Forum for the Prevention of Organised Crime, the establishment of the European Crime Prevention Network and the adoption of a Council Decision creating the Hippocrates programme to co-fund cooperation projects between Member States.

Key terms used in the act
  • Domestic burglary: gaining access to a dwelling by the use of force to steal goods.
  • Violent crime: violence against persons, robbery and sexual offences.
  • Volume crime: any non-organised crime, including frequently committed crimes, whose victims are easily identifiable (domestic burglaries, thefts from vehicles, common assault, street robberies).
  • Crime prevention: according to the definition in the Council Decision of May 2001 setting up a European crime prevention network, “Crime prevention covers all measures that are intended to reduce or otherwise contribute to reducing crime and citizens’ feeling of insecurity, both quantitatively and qualitatively, either through directly deterring criminal activities or through policies and interventions designed to reduce the potential for crime and the causes of crime. It includes work by government, competent authorities, criminal justice agencies, local authorities, specialist associations, the private and voluntary sectors, researchers and the public, supported by the media”.


Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
COM(2004) 165 final 12.03.2004 OJ C 92, 16.04.2004

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: The prevention of crime in the European Union. Reflection on common guidelines and proposals for Community financial support [COM(2000) 786 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Council resolution of 21 December 1998 on the prevention of organised crime with reference to the establishment of a comprehensive strategy for combating it [Official Journal C 408 of 29 December 1998].

Specific programme: Preventing and combating crime

Specific programme: Preventing and combating crime

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Specific programme: Preventing and combating crime


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Specific programme: Preventing and combating crime (2007-2013)

Document or Iniciative

Council Decision 2007/125/JHA of 12 February 2007 establishing for the period 2007-2013, as part of the General Programme on Security and Safeguarding Liberties, the Specific Programme “Prevention of and Fight against Crime”.


The programme “Prevention of and Fight against Crime”, which replaces the framework programme on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (AGIS). It is intended to prevent and fight crime, particularly terrorism, trafficking in persons, offences against children, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, corruption and fraud. It consists of four main themes:

  • crime prevention and criminology;
  • law enforcement;
  • protection and support for witnesses;
  • protection of victims.

Within these main areas of action, the new programme will in particular:

  • develop coordination and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, other national authorities and European Union (EU) bodies;
  • promote best practices for the protection of victims and witnesses;
  • encourage the methods necessary for strategically preventing and fighting crime and maintaining security, such as the work carried out in the European Union Crime Prevention Network and public-private partnerships.

Even though it does not deal with judicial cooperation, the programme may cover actions aimed at encouraging cooperation between judicial authorities and law enforcement authorities.

Eligible projects and actions

The programme will enable the following to be financed through grants or public contracts:

  • projects with a European dimension initiated and managed by the Commission;
  • transnational projects involving partners in at least two Member States or at least one Member State and a country which is an acceding or a candidate country;
  • national projects within Member States which prepare transnational projects and/or Union actions which complement them, or which develop innovative technologies which can be used in other countries;
  • operating grants for non-governmental organisations pursuing on a non-profit basis the objectives of the programme on a European dimension.

Eligible actions are specifically those relating to operational cooperation and coordination, analytical, monitoring and evaluation activities, the transfer of technology and methodology, training, exchange of staff and experts, as well as awareness and dissemination activities.

The programme concerns law enforcement agencies and other private or public actors, including regional and national authorities, social partners, universities, statistical offices and non-governmental organisations, as well as relevant international bodies which participate as partners.

Bodies applying to participate in the programme must have legal personality and be established in a Member State. Organisations which are profit oriented have access to grants only in conjunction with non-profit oriented or state organisations.

From 1 January 2007 this decision replaces the corresponding provisions of Decision 2002/630/JHA (AGIS). Actions started before 31 December 2006 pursuant to that decision continue to be governed, until their completion, by that decision.


The specific programme “Prevention of and Fight against Crime”, like the programme “Prevention, Preparedness and Consequence Management of Terrorism”, comes under the framework programme “Security and Safeguarding Liberties” which has a budget of EUR 745 million for the period 2007 to 2013.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 2007/125/JHA


OJ L 58 of 24.2.2007


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 16 June 2011 on the mid-term evaluation of the Framework Programme – Security and Safeguarding Liberties (2007-2013) [COM(2011) 318 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

The report evaluates the implementation of the Securities and Safeguarding Liberties Programme for the period 2007-2009. It shows that the projects supported by the programme have largely produced the expected results: creating new tools and methodologies, disseminating good practice, and increasing knowledge on specific issues. The large majority of the projects concern horizontal methods for preventing crime and cooperation between law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, law enforcement agents are the principal participants in the programme. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom account for 48 % of the projects. However, the Commission notes a variety of implementation problems and an under-utilisation of appropriations. It proposes to continue the programme until 2013 by improving the procedure for approving grants and the evaluation process.

Commission communication to the Council and to the European Parliament establishing a general programme “Security and Safeguarding Liberties” for the period 2007-2013 [COM(2005) 124 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Fight against organised crime and terrorism: role of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network

Fight against organised crime and terrorism: role of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Fight against organised crime and terrorism: role of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Fight against organised crime and terrorism: role of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 23 October 2007 on the role of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in the European Union [COM(2007) 644 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Eurojust has strengthened law enforcement cooperation between Member States and achieved significant operational success. The transposition of Decision 2002/187/JHA is on balance a qualified success. To develop Eurojust more effectively, the powers of its members (known as national members) and those of the College, formed by the assembly of national members, need to be clarified and reinforced.

The Commission calls for an amendment to the Decision establishing Eurojust in order to enable the agency to develop its potential for cooperation and to establish itself as a vital player in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Europe.

Granting wider powers to the national members

The statute and competences of each national member are defined by the Member State which appoints them. This situation leads to a lack of consistency between the powers of the different national members and makes it difficult at present to achieve fully effective cooperation. Furthermore, Member States do not confer real authority on them. Therefore, only a few national members may negotiate setting up joint investigation teams and use their law enforcement powers in their home country.

For greater stability and effectiveness, the Member States should take measures to spell out the powers of the national members and the college and define a shared base of minimum powers.

To increase Eurojust’s operational capacity, Member States are called upon to send their information to Eurojust more quickly, and also to reinforce their national offices. They will also make use of the services of national experts.

Possible amendments to increase the powers of the national members

The Commission suggests the Decision by proposing that the national members can:

  • accept and forward requests from national authorities and ensure that they are properly followed up;
  • receive judgments from national authorities in cases of money laundering, organised crime, terrorism and human trafficking;
  • forward this information to the national member of a Member State which is not informed but which is involved;
  • be informed of the setting up of a Joint Investigation Team and suggest investigative measures;
  • request further follow-up measures and additional investigations from the authority concerned;
  • be informed about the organisation of a controlled delivery, an infiltration or an undercover investigation and have responsibility for monitoring it;
  • be appointed for a term of at least three years;
  • have deputies to ensure regular representation.

In the longer term, the Commission will examine how to reinforce the powers of the national members in the initiation of criminal cases prejudicial to the financial interests of the European Union (EU).

Granting wider powers to the college

The College has the same powers as the national members. Although the College rules on conflicts of jurisdiction and on competing arrest warrants, its decisions are not binding on the Member States. Its powers should be widened and its role as mediator in resolving conflicts between Member States strengthened. The latter in fact refer to the College only to obtain information on the steps to be taken where disagreements arise.

The Commission undertakes to consider the conditions on which the College will be able to:

  • settle conflicts between Member States;
  • launch inquiries in a Member State and propose prosecution;
  • play a role in specific investigation measures;
  • initiate criminal inquiries at European level.

Relations between Eurojust, the European Judicial Network and the liaison magistrates

The European Judicial Network (EJN) facilitates judicial cooperation between Member States, in particular through its Internet site on the systems of justice in Europe. However, cooperation between the network and Eurojust must be improved. The Commission hopes that each Eurojust member will become attached to a national correspondent who will be one of the European Judicial Network contact points. This correspondent would be part of the Eurojust member’s team. S/he would be a relay for Eurojust’s communication policy in their Member State and would forward the cases to be examined promptly to the national member.

In the future, Eurojust could themselves designate the liaison magistrates in countries outside the EU so as to facilitate judicial cooperation between the Member States and the countries concerned.

Stepping up cooperation with Europol

The links between Eurojust and Europol have constantly improved. The secure communications network has facilitated the exchange of information between them and access to Europol’s analytical work files. Finally, the expert meetings on Joint Investigation Team have achieved high quality work.

However, cooperation between Eurojust and the Europol national liaison offices is still uneven. The links should be strengthened and exchanges of data with these offices should be improved.

Cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Frontex and non-EU countries

The fields of responsibility of Eurojust and OLAF are complementary. The Commission therefore proposes to establish a regular exchange of information between the two agencies in order to strengthen cooperation. It also emphasises the need to continue to appoint contact points and establish regular meetings between Eurojust and OLAF.

The protection of the EU’s external borders is important in connection with illegal immigration and organised crime. The Commission encourages the signing of a cooperation agreement between Frontex and Eurojust.

Eurojust has signed agreements with third countries aimed at developing an exchange of personal data and information between judicial authorities. These agreements have led to sending of liaison officers to Eurojust. The agency now wishes to develop a veritable network of contact points.

European security strategy

European security strategy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European security strategy


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

European security strategy

Document or Iniciative

A secure Europe in a better world – European security strategy . Brussels, 12 December 2003 [Not published in the Official Journal].


The European security strategy was drawn up under the authority of the EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and adopted by the Brussels European Council of 12 and 13 December 2003. It identifies the global challenges and key threats to the security of the Union and clarifies its strategic objectives in dealing with them, such as building security in the EU’s neighbourhood and promoting an international order based on effective multilateralism. It also assesses the policy implications that these objectives have for Europe.

The security environment: global challenges and key threats

In the context of ever-increasing globalisation, the internal and external aspects of security are inextricably linked. Flows of trade and investment, the development of technology and the spread of democracy have brought prosperity and freedom to many people, while others have perceived globalisation as a cause of frustration and injustice. In much of the developing world, poverty and diseases such as AIDS give rise to security concerns, and in many cases economic failure is linked to political problems and violent conflict. Security is a precondition for development. Competition for natural resources is likely to create further turbulence. Energy dependence is a special concern for Europe.

The security strategy identifies three key threats facing Europe:

  • Terrorism. Concerted European action against terrorism is indispensable. Terrorism puts lives at risk and seeks to undermine the openness and tolerance of our societies. It arises out of complex causes, including the pressures of modernisation, cultural, social and political crises, and the alienation of young people living in foreign societies.
  • Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is potentially the greatest threat to our security. International treaty régimes and export control arrangements have slowed the spread of WMD, but we are entering a new and dangerous period. Advances in the biological sciences may increase the potency of biological weapons. The most frightening scenario is one in which terrorist groups acquire weapons of mass destruction. In this event, a small group would be able to inflict damage on a scale previously possible only for States and armies.
  • Regional conflicts. These can have a direct or indirect impact on European interests, regardless of their geographical location. They pose a threat to minorities, fundamental freedoms and human rights. They can lead to extremism and terrorism and provoke state failure.
  • State failure. Civil conflict and bad governance – corruption, abuse of power, weak institutions and lack of accountability – corrode States from within. This can lead to a collapse of state institutions. Afghanistan under the Taliban is a well-known example. State failure is an alarming phenomenon that undermines global governance and adds to regional instability.
  • Organised crime. Europe is a prime target for organised crime, which has an important external dimension, namely trafficking in drugs, women, children and arms, which does not stop at the Union’s borders. Such criminal activity is often associated with weak or failing states. For example, revenues from drugs have helped to undermine state structures in several drug-producing countries. Organised crime can have links with terrorism. In extreme cases, it can come to dominate the State.

The European Union’s strategic objectives

To defend its security and promote its values, the European Union pursues three strategic objectives:

  • Addressing the threats. The Union continues to take steps to tackle the key threats. It responded after 11 September with measures that included the adoption of the European Arrest Warrant and steps against terrorist financing. The Union continues to pursue its policies against arms proliferation, in part by strengthening international treaties and their verification provisions. It has intervened to help deal with regional conflicts and to put failed States back on their feet. Restoring good government promotes democracy and is a way of tackling organised crime. Until the end of the Cold War, our traditional concept of self-defence was based on the threat of invasion. With the new threats, however, the first line of defence will often be abroad. We should be ready to act before a crisis occurs. Today, each threat requires a combination of responses, which the Union is particularly well equipped to provide.
  • Building security in its neighbourhood. It is in the Union’s interest that countries on our borders are well governed. Our task is to promote a ring of well-governed countries to the east of the European Union and on the shores of the Mediterranean with whom we can enjoy close and cooperative relations. Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a strategic priority. Without this, there will be little chance of dealing with other problems in the Middle East.
  • Developing an international order based on effective multilateralism. Our security and prosperity increasingly depend on an effective multilateral system. The Union aims to develop a stronger international society, well-functioning international institutions – such as the United Nations, whose Charter constitutes the fundamental framework for international relations – and a rule-based international order. The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic States. EU policies are aimed at bringing this about.

Policy implications for Europe

The European Union has made progress towards a coherent foreign policy and effective crisis management. However, according to the security strategy, the Union must:

  • be more active in pursuing its strategic objectives. Active policies are needed to counter the new threats. The Union needs to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid and, when necessary, robust intervention. A more active EU taking on greater responsibilities will also carry greater political weight.
  • increase its capabilities. Steps such as the creation of a European defence agency take us in the direction of a more capable Europe. The armies of the Union’s Member States must be transformed into more flexible and more mobile forces to enable them to address the new threats. The Union also needs more capacity to bring all necessary civilian resources to bear in crises and post-crisis situations. In addition, the Union must go further in combining the diplomatic capabilities of its Member States with those of the EU.
  • pursue coherent policies. The challenge is to bring together the different tools and capabilities of EU policy, such as European assistance programmes, the European Development Fund and the Member States’ military and civilian capabilities. The Union must pursue coherent policies. Diplomatic efforts and development, trade and environmental policies should follow the same agenda.
  • work with its partners. As things stand now, neither the Union nor any Member State is alone capable of addressing the threats we are faced with. Multilateral cooperation and bilateral partnerships with key actors are a priority and a necessity. The transatlantic relationship is irreplaceable. However, the EU must also work for closer relations with partners such as Russia, Japan, China, Canada and India.

The European Union: a global player

The violence of the two world wars that marked the first half of the twentieth century has given way to a period of peace, stability and prosperity unprecedented in European history. The creation of the European Union has been central to this development. European countries are now committed to dealing peacefully with disputes and to cooperating through common institutions.

The United States has played a critical role in European integration and European security, especially through NATO. Now that the Cold War is over, it has become the single dominant military power. However, no country is able to tackle today’s complex problems on its own. As a union of 27 states with a total population of over 500 million, the EU has inevitably become a global player. It should therefore be ready to share in the responsibility for creating global security and building a better world.

Organised crime: crime prevention in the European Union

Organised crime: crime prevention in the European Union

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Organised crime: crime prevention in the European Union


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Organised crime: crime prevention in the European Union

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament. The prevention of crime in the European Union. Reflection on common guidelines and proposals for Community financial support [COM(2000) 786 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The Commission has approached crime prevention under specific headings: sexual exploitation of children, trafficking in human beings and fraud against the Community budget. Following the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Tampere European Council, the Commission proposes to put the experience acquired at European and international levels to work as part of an overall strategy to fight crime.

The communication defines crime as “punishable conduct by individuals and by spontaneous associations of persons”. However, this concept covers a number of aspects:

  • crime in the strict sense;
  • less serious offences that are actually more frequent;
  • violence in various contexts;
  • anti-social conduct, which includes behaviour that is not a criminal offence.

Organised crime is defined, in accordance with Joint Action 98/733/JHA of 21 December 1998, as “a structured association, established over a period of time, of more than two persons, acting in concert with a view to committing offences which are punishable by deprivation of liberty … of a maximum of at least four years or a more serious penalty”.

Prevention is defined as “all activities which contribute to halting or reducing crime as a social phenomenon, both quantitatively and qualitatively, either through permanent and structured cooperation measures or through ad hoc initiatives”. Crime prevention measures may be aimed at:

  • reducing the opportunities that make crime easier;
  • improving the social factors that foster crime;
  • informing and protecting victims.

Characteristics of the European strategy

Preventive measures should complement enforcement and should develop a multidisciplinary approach. Action taken by the Union is based on the subsidiarity principle and is therefore not intended to take the place of national, regional or local initiatives. Furthermore, close attention must be paid to the fundamental principles of law and public freedoms.

A list of priority actions should be drawn up, with a view to the fact that crime prevention is a new Union policy. As regards general crime, priorities were set by the Tampere European Council: the fight against urban, juvenile and drug-related crime. As regards organised crime, priority will be given to combating trafficking in human beings, the exploitation of children and counterfeiting of the euro.

The Union’s strategy could be focused on three points:

  • improve understanding of the phenomena of crime by sharing national experience and practices;
  • develop cooperation and the networking of those involved in prevention at all levels;
  • strengthen the multidisciplinary approach to projects.

Instruments of the prevention strategy

The Union’s approach to crime prevention must primarily be comprehensive. The 1998 Council Resolution on the prevention of organised crime invited the Commission to assess Community policies in terms of their contribution to crime prevention. In the light of that assessment, the Commission concludes that it should strengthen and structure its preventive measures.

Economic and financial policy (fraud, corruption and money laundering), social policy (the fight against all forms of discrimination), external policy and environmental policy are all areas where action could be taken.

The Commission is committed to assessing the possible impact of its legislative proposals in terms of crime prevention. A similar study should also be carried out by Member States of their national initiatives. The analysis should not be limited to proposals for new laws and regulations but should include existing legislation.

The Commission encourages all measures aimed at the collection of data on crime. It notes in this respect that the identification of objective and relevant indicators is essential to the study of crime. A lack of comparable data is a serious obstacle to cooperation and prevention at the European level.

European Forum for the prevention of crime

The Commission believes that one of the effective means of setting up a coordinated strategy is to network those involved in prevention. For that reason it supports the initiative of the French Presidency and Sweden for the creation of a European Network for the prevention of urban, juvenile and drug-related crime. In addition, the Commission suggests setting up a European Forum for the prevention of organised crime which will be able to deal with various aspects of prevention such as economic and financial crime, lawful and unlawful dealings in goods, trafficking in human beings and corruption. The Forum will consist of representatives of the institutions, national and local authorities and the business circles and associations most concerned by crime. The Commission also proposes that national coordination structures be set up at national level.

The activities of the Forum will essentially consist in:

  • assisting the European institutions and the Member States in crime prevention matters;
  • contributing to the identification of crime trends;
  • facilitating the exchange of information;
  • contributing to the setting-up and operation of the expertise centres on specific topics;
  • identifying fields of research and training.

The Commission also plans to set up an Internet site on crime prevention.

At the request of the Heads of State or Government at the Tampere European Council (paragraphs 41 and 42 of the conclusions), the Commission proposed in its communication that a new financial instrument be adopted to support the European crime prevention measures. The programme, known as Hippocrates, should cover the prevention of all forms of crime and provide support for the measures listed in the communication.

The financial instrument will consist of two parts: cross-frontier organised crime and general crime. The projects supported will be:

  • meetings and seminars;
  • studies and research work;
  • pilot projects;
  • exchange of good practices.

The Commission asks the European Parliament, the Council, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee, as well as the professional organisations representing industry and services and the associations representing civil society, to make their views known on the communication.

Related Acts

Council Decision 2009/902/JHA of 30 November 2009 setting up a European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) and repealing Decision 2001/427/JHA.

The prevention and control of organised crime: a strategy for the beginning of the new millennium [Official Journal C 124 of 03.05.2000].

on the prevention of organised crime with reference to the establishment of a comprehensive strategy for combating it [Official Journal C 408 of 29.12.1998].


Comprehensive strategy for combating organised crime

Comprehensive strategy for combating organised crime

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Comprehensive strategy for combating organised crime


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Comprehensive strategy for combating organised crime

Document or Iniciative

Council Resolution of 21 December 1998 on the prevention of organised crime with reference to the establishment of a comprehensive strategy for combating it [Official Journal C 408 of 29.12.1998].


Following the action plan to combat organised crime adopted by the Council on 28 April 1997 and having regard to the results of the seminars on combating crime held in a number of European cities (Saragossa in February 1996, Stockholm in May 1996, Noordwijk in May 1997 and London in June 1998), the Council considers that prevention is just as important as enforcement in providing an effective response to crime. At international level the Council of Europe and the United Nations have adopted recommendations and programmes aimed primarily at developing a comprehensive strategy to combat crime.

Responsibility for the prevention of crime lies not only with the judicial authorities and the police but also with civil society as a whole (schools, non-governmental organisations, social structures, etc.). Measures to combat unemployment and social exclusion and to ensure appropriate education and training could also bring benefits for high-risk groups.

The Council calls on the Member States to:

  • continue to implement prevention programmes and training measures;
  • develop measures to combat drug use;
  • adopt measures (codes of conduct, for example) for professions which are vulnerable to corruption;
  • guarantee transparency in awarding public contracts and in public affairs in general (financing of political parties and other organisations);
  • raise awareness of the causes, dangers and consequences of the increase in crime;
  • create regional or local structures to study questions related to crime;
  • inform the other Member States of any new information arising from practical experiences or scientific work. The Council also raises the possibility of institutionalising this exchange through the creation of national contact points;
  • define common methods of prevention, in liaison with the Commission and Europol.

The Commission and Europol have formulated a joint report containing proposals for crime prevention. Among other things, the report has decided what measures could be adopted at Community level and what influence prevention measures might have on the enlargement process and relations with non-member countries.


Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Council Resolution of 21 December 1998 OJ C 408, 29.12.1998

Related Acts

Council Decision of 28 May setting up a European Crime Prevention Network.
[Official Journal L 153 of 08.06.2001]

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: The prevention of crime in the European Union – Reflection on common guidelines and proposals for Community financial support [COM(2000) 786 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

The prevention and control of organised crime: a strategy for the beginning of the new millennium [Official Journal C 124 of 03.05.2000]

Organised crime: contact points to combat high-tech crime

Organised crime: contact points to combat high-tech crime

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Organised crime: contact points to combat high-tech crime


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Organised crime: contact points to combat high-tech crime

Document or Iniciative

Council Recommendation of 25 June 2001 on contact points maintaining a 24-hour service for combating high-tech crime.


On 19 March 1998 the Council invited the Member States to join the G8 24-hour information network for combating high-tech crime. This network will provide the countries which join it with an overview of computer network crime, given that it often occurs simultaneously at different locations in different countries.

At a meeting held in Washington on 9 and 10 December 1997, the justice and home affairs ministers of the G8 adopted the network’s basic principles. An action plan was also adopted which made provision for countries from outside the G8 circle to join the network. The network was established between 1998 and 2000.

Those EU Member States which do not form part of the G8 network have joined Interpol’s “National Central Reference Point System” (NCRP). However, Interpol’s national central reference points do not always provide 24-readiness. The two networks will work together in a spirit of cooperation. In addition, those Member States which are not represented in the G8 network should be able to link a 24-hour function to their specialist units that form part of the Interpol network.

The Council therefore recommends that those Member States that have not yet joined the G8 network of contact points do so, and that the national units designated as contact points specialise in combating high-tech crime. The Council also recommends that those units should be able to take operational measures.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Council Recommendation of 25 June 2001 OJ C 187 of 3.07.2001

Related Acts

Council Frameworkof 24 February 2005 on attacks against information systems

Fight against cybercrime

Fight against cybercrime

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Fight against cybercrime


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Fight against cybercrime

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Creating a safer information society by improving the security of information infrastructures and combating computer-related crime [COM(2000) 890 final – not published in the Official Journal]


The development of new information and communication technologies is radically changing our economy and society. The success of the information society is crucial for Europe’s growth, competitiveness and employment opportunities. That is why the Commission adopted the eEurope initiative in December 1999 to ensure that the EU can reap the full benefits. The general action plan on the eEurope initiative, approved by the Feira European Council in June 2000, highlights the importance of network security and the fight against cybercrime.

At the same time the growing importance of information and communication infrastructure opens up new opportunities for criminal activities. The European Union has therefore taken a number of steps to fight harmful and illegal content on the Internet, protect intellectual property and personal data, promote electronic commerce and tighten up the security of transactions:

  • The action programme on organised crime, adopted by the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) in May 1997 and endorsed by the Amsterdam European Council, called on the Commission to carry out a study on computer-related crime. The Commission presented the study (known as the “COMCRIME study”) in April 1998.
  • The Tampere European Council acknowledged that high-tech crime should be included in efforts to reach agreement on common definitions and penalties for a number of criminal offences.
  • Initial measures have been adopted under the Union’s strategy for combating high-tech crime

Definition of computer-related crime

The communication addresses computer crime in its broadest sense as any crime involving the use of information technology. The terms “computer crime,” “computer-related crime,” “high-tech crime” and “cybercrime” share the same meaning in that they describe a) the use of information and communication networks that are free from geographical constraints and b) the circulation of intangible and volatile data.

The main offences covered by existing European and national legislation are:

  • privacy offences: illegal collection, storage, modification, disclosure or dissemination of personal data;
  • content-related offences: the dissemination of pornography, in particular child pornography, racist statements and information inciting violence;
  • economic crimes, unauthorised access and sabotage: offences relating to unauthorised access to systems (e.g. hacking, computer sabotage and distribution of viruses, computer espionage, computer forgery, and computer fraud);
  • intellectual property offences: violations of the legal protection of computer programs and databases, copyright and related rights.

Legislative and non-legislative proposals

Legislative measures aimed at approximating national provisions on cybercrime need to be backed up by non-legislative measures such as:

  • the creation of specialised national units (law enforcement and judicial authorities);
  • continuous, specialised training for police and judicial authority staff;
  • the creation of a harmonised set of rules for police and judicial record-keeping and appropriate tools for statistical analysis of computer crime;
  • the establishment of a European forum to foster cooperation between the various players;
  • encouragement for direct action by industry against computer-related crime;
  • EU-funded research and technological development (RTD) projects.

The Commission will present legislative proposals on:

  • approximating Member States’ laws on child pornography offences;
  • approximating substantive criminal law in the field of high-tech crime;
  • applying the principle of mutual recognition to pre-trial orders associated with cybercrime investigations involving more than one Member State.

Planned non-legislative measures include:

  • creation of a European forum bringing together law enforcement agencies, service providers, network operators, consumer groups and data protection authorities with the aim of stepping up cooperation at EU level;
  • further action to promote security and trust in the context of the eEurope initiative, the Internet Action Plan, the Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme and the next framework programme for RTD;
  • launch of further projects under existing programmes to support the training of staff;
  • financing of measures aimed at improving the content and usability of the database of Member States’ national laws provided by the COMCRIME study.

Related Acts

Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on attacks against information systems [COM(2002) 173 final – Official Journal C 203 E of 27.8.2002]

The purpose of this proposal is to develop effective tools and procedures in order to step up judicial cooperation in the field of criminal attacks against information systems.

Council Recommendation of 25 June 2001 on contact points maintaining a 24-hour service for combating high-tech crime [Official Journal C 187 of 3.7.2001]

The purpose of this recommendation is to deal as swiftly and professionally as possible with the various types of high-tech crime.

Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of light weapons

Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of light weapons

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of light weapons


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Fight against organised crime

Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of light weapons

Document or Iniciative

EU strategy (pdf ) to combat the illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. Brussels, 13 January 2006 [not published in the Official Journal].


The consequences of the excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons (SALW) are central to four of the five challenges (terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, state failure and organised crime) identified in the European Security Strategy (ESS) adopted on 13 December 2003.

Since 1990 SALW have cost the lives of almost four million people. To tackle this threat, Europe must put forward a coherent combination of means, non-military included.

A growing threat

According to the United Nations, 600 million light weapons are in circulation in the world and, of the 49 major conflicts in the 1990s, 47 were fought using SALW as the main weapons. Contemporary conflicts are shaped by the abundance of stocks of easily obtainable small arms and light weapons left over primarily from the Cold War, and they are increasingly being fought not by armies but by armed factions that have no military discipline and are often responsible for serious violations of human rights.

Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, remains the area in the world which is most affected by the destabilising impact of SALW. Up to now, the European Union (EU) has operated on the disarmament front mainly on a reactive basis, by means for example of programmes for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of combatants. This approach has to be supplemented by preventive action to deal with illicit supply — in eastern and south-eastern Europe, the stocks of SALW are enormous — and illicit demand as well as control over exports of conventional weapons.

The challenge for the EU in its SALW strategy is to respond to these threats and to ensure that its security policy and its development policy are consistent, while fully exploiting the means available to it at multilateral and regional levels, within the European Union and in its bilateral relations.


The European Union has launched specific actions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Balkans on the basis of the Joint Action (pdf ) which was adopted in 2002 and remains central to EU policy. It identifies three overarching objectives:

  • to combat the accumulation and spread of small arms;
  • to contribute to the reduction of stocks to levels consistent with countries’ legitimate security needs;
  • to help solve the problems caused by excessive accumulation.

This action must be supplemented in order to establish a comprehensive and coherent approach and develop new facets of EU action while setting geographical priorities. Each year a report details the efforts made by Member States to implement the Joint Action.


The European Union has unique assets for providing a comprehensive response to the SALW threat. Its capacity to use the full spectrum of Member States’ civilian capabilities (educational, advisory, assistance and training missions) and military capabilities (border control, peacekeeping forces, stabilisation forces or disarmament actions) for managing crises and post-conflict situations and for reconstruction places it at the forefront in this struggle.

Outside its borders, the Union can also act in cooperation with its main partners (the USA, Russia, China, etc.) under the partnership and cooperation agreements that it has established with the major regions of the world and the development and assistance programmes for the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

To act within the territory of the Union, it possesses substantial means of action, thanks in particular to cooperation mechanisms such as Europol and Eurojust and to mechanisms for controlling sensitive exports (code of conduct).

Action plan

The action plan must remain flexible and must be regularly reviewed and updated every six months with the aid of the President’s progress report, applying the decisions taken in the Council Joint Action of 12 July 2002 (pdf ) and supplementing them where necessary.

The strategy stresses the need for effective multilateralism in order to develop universal, regional and national mechanisms. At international level, priority is given to implementing the United Nations programme of action, tracing and marking SALW and ratifying the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms. The European Union will pursue these goals and will seek to persuade exporting countries to comply with restrictive criteria for the supply of SALW.

The machinery for international sanctions and sanctions monitoring must be strengthened, as must export controls. With respect to the latter, border control is regarded as essential and the Union will contribute with assistance programmes (equipment for checking purposes and the training of institutions) in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa and with training programmes in the customs sector, particularly in eastern Europe.

At regional level, preference is given to supporting initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa by means of financial and technical support for regional and national organisations (ECOWAS moratorium, Nairobi Convention and SADC Protocol). The African Union and other regional organisations must be provided with means and support must be given to action by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to combat SALW.

In the context of EU agreements/structured dialogues, the issues of the brokering and illicit transfer of SALW will be put on the agenda, in particular with exporting countries and countries holding stocks left over from the Cold War.

Within Europe, attention will be given to implementing the Joint Action (pdf ) and the 2003 Joint Position on brokerage. An active policy to combat networks for illicit trafficking of SALW will be initiated through Europol, Eurocustoms and Eurojust.

In order to respond effectively to the accumulation of existing stocks, a number of initiatives are possible: they include the creation of national inventories, regional registers and the regular exchange of information about SALW, the financing by the EU of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration operations and education and public awareness programmes.

Within the European Union, the capabilities of the Council Secretariat will be strengthened to ensure that the strategy is applied coherently. There needs to be consistency and complementarity between Council decisions adopted in the context of the CFSP and Commission actions in the area of development aid.


The European Council meeting at Thessaloniki adopted a strategy in December 2003 against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The aim of the current strategy, adopted by the European Council on 16 December 2005, is to devise a facet specific to SALW so as to develop, in similar manner, an integrated approach and a comprehensive plan of action to combat the illicit trade in SALW and their ammunition.

Related Acts

Sixth annual report on the implementation of the Council Joint Action 2002/589/CFSP of 12 July 2002 on the European Union’s contribution to combating the destabilising accumulation and spread of SALW [Official Journal C 299, 11.12.2007].

Since 1999 around EUR 14.5 million of CFSP funds has been committed through decisions implementing Joint Action 2002/589/CFSP in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Balkans and Ukraine. The review of action taken under the strategy was prepared by the Council Secretariat and focuses on efforts made by the Member States in 2006 to address the overall problem of small arms and light weapons. The report also covers international implementation efforts and participation in the work of international and regional organisations.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.