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News blog2 October 2022Directorate-General for Communication

Organised crime in the EU is increasingly transnational – police cooperation must outpace it

From Stockholm to Sicily, from Dublin to Dubrovnik, organised crime is becoming more widespread, more violent, and more of a threat to the integrity of European society.

Crimes committed in Antwerp or Rotterdam are ordered from Marbella or even Dubai. But the reach is not just a violent one. It increasingly seeps into the corridors of power and administration through corruption.

Police cooperation must outpace these tactics. To do so we need European cooperation that takes advantage of individual police expertise and continues to combine it into a European fight.

This week is a big one in that fight. Tomorrow European Police Chiefs meet in The Hague at their annual convention. In my message to them, I will highlight the fight against corruption. On Wednesday I will be in Poland for the Warsaw Security Forum where I will speak about how we are cooperating with Ukraine to ensure security of our citizens. And on Friday I will meet, in Amsterdam, with Dutch, Belgian, German, French and Spanish Ministers to discuss the fight against organised crime.

According to Europol's Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment,  almost 70 % of organised criminal networks are active in more than three countries: 65 % are composed of members of multiple nationalities, many of whom come from outside the EU.

Public concerns are growing, and with good reason. The volume of cocaine, very often trafficked through Belgian, Dutch, and Spanish ports is significant.. Criminal groups have multiplied, splintered, and moved, both internationally and within the European Union.

We can disrupt organised crime activities if we get better in following the money trail. To do that, we need the tools to unveil sophisticated money laundering operations. This will effectively deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains through more powerful asset recovery and confiscation tools.

The recent Europol facilitated operation in Spain against the main money launderer of the Kinahan crime syndicate is a clear example. This operation targeted an individual responsible for ‘washing’ 200 million euros in just one year. The arrest was important, but the multinational nature of the response is as significant. This is the future of the law enforcement fight against organised crime in the EU.

Last spring (April 2021) I presented a new EU Strategy to tackle Organised Crime. We are well advanced on implementing that plan, but we need to keep the pace high. Dismantling organised crime structures and going after criminal profits is the fixed objective but to do so effectively means having tactics that can constantly evolve. Organised crime adapted to the coronavirus pandemic as they had to other recent trends – ruthlessly and sophisticatedly.

Even before the pandemic, in 2019, criminal revenues in the main criminal markets amounted to 1% of the EU's GDP, i.e., €139 billion.

The Commission is expanding and modernising the European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT), the structure that since 2010 brings together all relevant European and national authorities to identify priority crime threats and address them collectively. The Commission is providing the funding to back this up. Also, it is upgrading the ‘Prüm' framework for the exchange of information on DNA, fingerprints, and vehicle registration.

But too often organised crime is one step ahead. We need to ask the difficult questions. Why criminal figures, known to reside in places like Dubai, can do so with impunity? Why have Mexican gangs reach that extends all the way to EU ports? Why are hand grenades exploding in those port streets?

We are working on international solutions to these problems. The pace of that effort will be helped enormously if police cooperation in Europe is given the support it needs.


Publication date
2 October 2022
Directorate-General for Communication