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Strategic concept on tackling organised crime
With this Communication the Commission aims to focus the strategy for tackling organised crime on such priority objectives as the collection of information and intelligence, prevention, and cooperation between law enforcement authorities, judicial authorities and third countries and organisations. Implementation of this concept in line with the proposed timetable should contribute significantly to the development of a single European area of justice, freedom and security.
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.