Organised crime: crime prevention in the European Union
The Union invites a reflection on the European crime prevention policy launched at the Tampere European Council in October 1999. With this communication, it proposes an overall crime prevention strategy covering so-called ordinary crime and organised crime.
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.