The present and future of organised crime in the European Union

Organised crime has evolved significantly over the last twenty years, especially in terms of the number of criminal organisations, their modus operandi, the use of technology and organised crime’s ability to infiltrate infrastructures and the public sector and to make the most of legal loopholes.

This was just one of the conclusions reached at the European Police Chiefs Convention 2019 (EPCC), during which some 600 police officials and representatives from 50 countries gathered at Europol headquarters in The Hague.

This annual event brings together police chiefs and officials from the EU and from all over the world to exchange assessments of the threats, challenges and opportunities posed by current and emerging criminal groups. Through hundreds of bilateral and multilateral meetings, the delegates discussed the continuing evolution of organised crime and how it has become a significant challenge for EU security. The police authorities of the EU member states and Europol all agreed that the increasingly cross-border nature of organised crime, often tied to violence between gangs, the expansion of the drug traffic markets and related crimes like money laundering and corruption, constitutes a significant challenge for our society.

In some regions of several EU member states a vicious circle that involves social exclusion, criminality, mistrust of the police and, in some cases, radicalisation has been observed.

Meanwhile, new psychoactive substances, record levels of drug production worldwide, organised trafficking of migrants and the development of online crime have had a profound effect on the criminal panorama.

Europol and the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union concluded that various areas require special attention. These include:

  • a focus on organised crime, considering it as a serious threat to the EU’s internal security.
    • a need to tackle high-level organised criminal groups by developing more effective initiatives, such as the ‘high-value target’ concept at Europol.
    • greater attention being paid to economic and financial crime and the confiscation of criminal assets, which will ensure that the costs of crime are paid by criminals. And the use of new tools like the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) at Europol and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).
    • greater flow of information between the police and the private sector, at national and European levels (Europol).
    more investment in crime prevention, which requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves government bodies, NGOs and the private sector.
    a need for an overall EU strategy to tackle organised crime, which may be expanded during the EU policy cycle on serious international crime.


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