Measures to tackle organised crime, corruption and money laundering are set out in an EU action plan for 2014-2019 recommended by Parliament on Wednesday. Seizing the financial assets of organised crime networks and choking off their sources of income tops the list. Nearly 4000 international criminal organisations are said to be operating in the EU in 2013.
"The cost of the mafias, difficult to estimate, ranges from 4 to 5 percentage points of GDP for the EU alone," said Salvatore Iacolino (EPP, IT), who drew up the final proposals, which were approved by 526 votes to 25, with 87 abstentions. This resolution is "a list of concrete actions to be implemented over the next legislative term. This is a common challenge to criminal systems," he added.
Europol figures point to 3600 international criminal organisations operating in the EU in 2013, of which 70% have members from different countries.
Protecting EU finances
MEPs want people convicted in final judgments of organised crime, corruption or money laundering to be banned from bidding for any public procurement contract anywhere in the EU and barred from running for or holding any public office.
MEPs repeat their long-standing call for a European Public Prosecutor’s Office to be set up to coordinate national investigations and combat crimes affecting the EU's financial interests. This Office must be equipped with the necessary human and financial resources, they stress.
The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that illegal activities account for 3.6% of global GDP, while the Commission calculates the damage caused by corruption in the EU alone at some €120 billion a year, equivalent to 1.1% of EU GDP.
Cracking down on the assets of crime
To protect the EU's financial interests, it is vital to attack organised crime's assets more effectively, say MEPs, who advocate abolishing banking secrecy and eliminating EU tax havens to this end. Once seized, criminal assets should be re-used for social purposes, they say.
Eradicate human trafficking
MEPs want tougher penalties against people traffickers and better protection for their victims in an effort to eradicate human trafficking and forced labour. They want the fight against forced labour to focus on the places where cheap forced labour is exploited.
Trafficking in human beings generates criminal profits estimated at €25 billion a year and affects all EU countries. The International Labour Organisation puts the total number of forced labourers in the EU at around 880 000, of whom 270 000 are victims of sexual exploitation.
Parliament says it is essential to reach a decision on a single legal definition of mafia-type criminal activity, which should include the crime of involvement in a mafia-type organisation.
Match-fixing and vote-buying
MEPs want sports-rigging to be made a criminal offence, with appropriate penalties.
Likewise, vote-buying should be made a criminal offence, they say, even when its benefits are intangible.
The resolution adopted on Wednesday sets out an action plan for the next Parliament, Commission and Council to equip the EU to fight organised crime at international, European and national levels. It was drafted by the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering, set up in March 2012 to assess the impact of mafia-type activities on the EU's economy and society and to recommend legislation and other measures.
Procedure: non-legislative resolution