Organised Crime: Results Obtained at European Level

Legal - November 25, 2023

“The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime”. This is the text of Article Three of the Treaty on European Union. The treaty represents the main document of the European Union, which includes the priorities, the values and principles of the European Union.

Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union reiterates that preventing and combating crime are distinctive elements of European action. The European Union has among its fundamental objectives the fight against crime in all its forms and the restoration of legality in society.
For this reason, an important step in the process of fighting crime was taken in 2021 through the permanent establishment of a European multidisciplinary platform to combat crime threats, the so-called EMPACT.

In particular, it has to be said that EMPACT is an initiative that was first implemented between 2012 and 2013, before becoming a permanent instrument in 2021. EMPACT is a key instrument for operational cooperation to fight organised crime and international crime. EMPACT also aims to achieve an integrated approach in terms of EU internal security. This tool is led by Member States and involves the cooperation of a large number of agencies and partners, including EU institutions, agencies and bodies, public and private organisations and relevant third countries.

The measures under EMPACT are a mix of both preventive and repressive actions. On 26 May 2021, the EU Council adopted conclusions that also identify priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime in the period 2022-2025.

Ten priorities have been identified and are listed below:

– High-risk criminal networks: high-risk criminal networks within the EU should be identified and eliminated, paying particular attention to those networks that use corruption, acts of violence, firearms and money laundering through parallel underground financial systems.

– Cyber-attacks: action is needed to target criminals who organise cyber-attacks, which represent a new and dangerous type of crime. Furthermore, it must be remembered that cyber-attacks and cybercrime are increasing all the time. For this reason, the EU intends to strengthen Europe’s resilience against cyber threats and ensure that all citizens and businesses can fully benefit from reliable and trustworthy digital services and tools, without technological development posing a threat to their future. in order to do so, the EU strategy intends to strengthen the cyber security, so as to build a resilient, green and digital Europe. The overall aim is therefore to strengthen the EU’s digital leadership and strategic capabilities. Within the framework of Europol (which is the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, which since 1999 has the role to help national law enforcement authorities fight serious international crime and terrorism), it has also been established a specialised European Cybercrime Centre in order to help EU countries investigate online crimes and dismantle criminal networks.

– Trafficking in human beings: dismantling criminal networks dedicated to human trafficking is a priority, especially when minors are involved and when these networks recruit and advertise victims online.

-Child sexual exploitation: strive to eliminate child abuse, both online and offline, thus also combating the production and dissemination of child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children online.

-Migrant smuggling: fight criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling, in particular those providing facilitation services along the main migration routes.

– Drug trafficking: working to identify and target criminal networks involved in drug trafficking is one of the points on which the European Union must work, also curbing the spread of new psychoactive substances, in addition to the better-known cannabis, cocaine and heroin.

-Fraud, economic and financial crimes: fighting crimes such as online fraud, excise fraud, missing trader intra-community (MTIC) fraud, intellectual property crime, counterfeiting of goods and counterfeit currency, funds of illegal origin and money laundering.

-Organised property crime: disruption of criminal networks involved in organised property crime, with a focus on organised robbery and theft, as well as trafficking in stolen vehicles and illegal trade in cultural goods.

-Environmental crime: combating criminal networks involved in all forms of environmental crime, particularly those able to infiltrate legal economic structures or set up their own businesses to facilitate their crimes.

– Firearms trafficking: pointing criminals involved in the illicit trafficking, distribution and use of firearms.

All these priorities, of course, have to consider certain elements of reality that are unpredictable and sudden. In particular, we refer to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.

The mobilisation of the EMPACT platform

Indeed, conflicts create opportunities through which organised crime can prosper and amplify the threat posed by criminal groups to internal security. On the 28th March 2022, EU Home Affairs Ministers expressed their support for the mobilisation of the EMPACT platform to help EU Member States counter criminal networks and those who exploit the war in Ukraine. Therefore, a number of emergency actions were introduced among the EU’s crime-fighting priorities, such as trafficking in human beings, funds of illegal origin, money laundering, asset recovery, new psychoactive substances, synthetic drugs and high-risk criminal networks.

Having an overview of the results of the actions that were engaged to fight crime is a key element for these actions to be reshaped in terms of modalities and timing, where necessary. This is why every year, data are published on the results achieved in this context, which provide a picture of how effective action has been taken within European society in terms of combating organised crime and other forms of crime.

Data from the latest report published – june 2023

A report on the year 2022 was published in June 2023, containing some relevant data on organised crime and the fight against it.
Sintetically, with reference to the year 2022 it emerged as following:

  • – 9,922 arrests were made;
  • – 4,019 victims of human trafficking were identified;
  • – 3,646 traffickers of migrants were arrested;
  • – Over 180 million euros were seized;
  • – Over 62 tonnes of drugs were seized;
  • – 9,262 investigations were initiated

Organised crime poses a serious threat to European citizens, businesses and institutions and to the economy. Moreover, it is not only society that is undergoing constant change and an increasingly pervasive process of digitalisation, but organised crime is also changing and is therefore evolving and finding more and more ways to spread and attack.

As also mentioned in the official documents of the European Union, first and foremost the Treaty on European Union, the fight against lawlessness and crime are primary objectives in the work of the European Union. The dissemination of a culture of legality, the assurance of a crime-free world and the creation of a safe and secure society are all values on which the European Union was founded and which still remain central to the European project today.

The work done so far is leading to good results. However, in a world that is increasingly interconnected and exposed to growing risks, it is necessary to remember that the key to reaching concrete results lies in greater cooperation and coordination of actions. Only in this way, by working together at all levels, from national to supranational, it will be possible to implement actions that are truly effective and capable of combating the unlawfulness and crime that are increasingly widespread, creating a better Europe and a better world for the future generations.