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30 March 2012

Europe this week

Table of contents:


Tackling crime in the digital age: Commission plans European Cybercrime Centre

Posted Workers

New legislative package on posted workers targets fair competition and respect for social rights


Tackling crime in the digital age: Commission plans European Cybercrime Centre

With people spending more and more time online, the threat from cybercrime is greater than ever. This week, the European Commission adopted a Communication which plans to establish a European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) within the EU law enforcement agency, Europol. The Centre will aim to take cybercriminals offline and disrupt the digital underground economy.

As a matter of fact

Cybercrime represents a unique transnational challenge, requiring a co-ordinated response. Currently, legal boundaries and a lack of information sharing between states hinder effective prosecution of cybercriminals.

Meanwhile, the potential for cybercrime is growing – in 2011 almost three quarters (73%) of European households had internet access and in 2010 over one third (36%) of EU citizens used online banking. The volume and damage of cybercrime is also on the rise: more than one million people worldwide fall victim to cybercrime every day.

Cybercrime does not just affect individual victims, but also spreads fear of using online services. With European consumers standing to gain 200 billion euro by conducting more commerce online, fighting cybercrime also builds trust in the digital single market, helping to overcome the crisis.


In response to these challenges, the Commission plans to create a European Cybercrime Centre. Fulfilling one of the priorities of the Internal Security Strategy, the Centre shall be at the heart of the European Union's fight against cybercrime. Combining information from open sources, private industry, police and academia, the Centre will warn EU Member States of potential cybercrime threats and identify weaknesses in their online defences.

The Centre's four main tasks shall be to:

  • Serve as a focal point for European cybercrime information.

  • Pool European cybercrime expertise to support Member States.

  • Provide support to Member States' cybercrime investigations.

  • Become the collective voice of European cybercrime investigators across law enforcement and the judiciary.

In the spotlight: What is cybercrime?

    Due to rapid technological progress in this area, it is difficult to provide a single, overarching definition of what 'cybercrime' actually entails.

    In general, however, the term may be divided into two categories:

  • Crimes that target computers directly;

  • Crimes facilitated by computer networks or devices (classic online fraud).

    Some examples of cybercrime include:

  • "Phishing" – making users reveal passwords or sensitive data through fake emails.

  • "Identity theft" – breaking into computer networks to steal personal data in order to sell it on.

  • "Computer virus" - computer programme with replicating ability, often with malicious intent.


Cybercrime is on the rise. Overall cybercrime costs could soon reach a grand total of US-$388 billion.

There are currently 150,000 viruses and other types of malicious code in circulation and 148,000 computers are compromised every day. Moreover, between 250,000 and 600,000 Facebook accounts are blocked every day after various types of hacking attempts.

Country specific

In the UK alone, cybercrime costs up to 30 billion euro every year, whilst the costs of identity theft are estimated at 1.7 billion euro.

In Belgium, authorities reported an increase in computer crime offences and internet fraud from just above 4000 in 2008 to over 7000 in 2010.

In Germany, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) recorded fewer than 2000 cases of "phishing" in 2008, rising to over 5000 such cases in 2010.


Cybercrime has represented a key priority for the Commission since 2007, with the adoption of a Communication on "Towards a general policy on the fight against cyber crime."

In 2009, a Communication on Critical Information Infrastructure Protection entitled "Protecting Europe from large scale cyber-attacks and disruptions: enhancing preparedness, security and resilience," highlighted the specific threat from cyber-attacks.

Looking ahead

The centre is expected to start operations in January of next year. An implementation team will be established soon to start the Centre's set-up within Europol.


DG Home Affairs site on cybercrime:

"Towards a general policy on the fight against cyber crime:"

"Protecting Europe from large scale cyber-attacks and disruptions:"

Posted Workers

New legislative package on posted workers targets fair competition and respect for social rights

With around one million workers sent by their company to another EU Member State every year, the European Commission has proposed new rules to increase the protection of posted workers. The 'Enforcement Directive' ensures that social rights guaranteed in the 1996 Directive are actually delivered, while the 'Monti II Regulation' sends a clear message on the principle of equality between the right to strike and collective bargaining and economic freedoms.

As a matter of fact

A posted worker is defined as a person who, for a limited period, carries out their work in the territory of an EU Member State other than the country in which they normally work. Industry, notably the construction sector, is the largest employer of posted workers (25%). Other sectors using posted workers include services, financial and business activities, transport, communication and agriculture.

Whilst the European Commission already passed the '1996 Directive on the Posting of Workers,' findings suggest that minimum employment conditions are often still not respected for posted workers within the EU.


In this context, the legislative package aims to ensure both a level playing-field between companies and respect for employees' social rights.

The proposed 'Enforcement Directive' will remedy implementation gaps in previous legislation. It will:

  • Clearly define responsibilities between host and receiving companies: protecting workers and reducing administrative burdens.

  • Ensure law enforcement through the introduction of the "joint and several liability" principle in the construction sector.

  • Ensure better information for workers and companies on their rights and obligations.

  • Clarify EU rules so that 'posting' cannot be used to avoid companies' legal obligations.

The accompanying 'Monti II Regulation,' inspired by several landmark cases from the European Court of Justice, states that economic freedoms do not take precedence over the right to collective action and the right to strike.

In the spotlight: Case study

    Recent cases have highlighted the need for further European legislation in this area:

    Laval Case

  • Having won a contract to build a school in Vaxholm in Sweden, Laval (a Latvian construction company) posted Latvian construction workers to Sweden.

  • Swedish construction unions attempted to secure Laval's agreement to collective agreements covering pay, holidays and other benefits but the company refused.

  • Swedish construction unions undertook strike action against Laval in Sweden. Laval took the case to the Swedish courts, arguing that it had been discriminated against due to the failure of Swedish provisions to take into account collective agreements entered into with Latvian trade unions.

  • The perception among some stakeholders was that the European Court of Justice ruled that the right to strike was not as fundamental as the right of businesses to supply cross-border services. The 'Monti II Regulation' reinforces the ruling and sends a message that the right to strike is on an equal footing with the right to provide services.


Posted workers in the EU represent a very small share of the total active population – 0.4% in EU15, 0.7% in EU12.

Combined, the industry and service sectors employ almost all posted workers in the EU (Industry 55%, services 44%).

Country specific

The countries sending the greatest number of posted workers are Poland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Portugal. The countries which receive the greatest number of posted workers, on the other hand, are Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.

Concerning proposed enforcement measures, several Member States with a relatively large number of posted workers already have systems of 'joint and several liability' in place. Such countries include Austria, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.


The 'Directive on the Posting of Workers' was adopted in 1996 and has been in force since December 1999. It requires that, where in place, a Member State's minimum terms and conditions of employment must also apply to workers posted temporarily. It aims to balance the economic freedoms enshrined in the Treaty with workers' rights during posting.

Looking ahead

The proposal for an 'Enforcement Directive' shall now be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval. In this case, the European Parliament acts as full co-legislator.

The 'Monti II Regulation' will be decided by unanimity among Member States.


Further information on the posting of workers:

The 1996 'Directive on the Posting of Workers':

Press release: 'Commission to boost protection for posted workers':

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