Understanding the EU's response to organised crime

Briefing 15-09-2022

The EU has made substantial progress in terms of protecting its citizens since the early 1990s. This has often been in response to dramatic incidents, such as murders committed by the mafia or other organised crime groups or big money-laundering scandals, or to negative trends, such as the steep increase in migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings following the 2015 migration crisis. More recently, it was necessary to respond to the sharp rise in cybercrime, fraud and counterfeiting during the coronavirus pandemic. Criminal organisations continue to pose big risks to the EU's internal security. A rising number of organised crime groups are active in EU territory, often with cross-border reach. Organised crime is furthermore an increasingly dynamic and complex phenomenon, with new criminal markets and modi operandi emerging under the influence of globalisation and new technologies in particular. While the impact of serious and organised crime on the EU economy is considerable, there are also significant political and social costs, as well as negative effects on the wellbeing of EU citizens. As organised crime has become more interconnected, international and digital, Member States – which remain responsible for operational activities in the area of police and judicial cooperation –rely increasingly on cross-border and EU-level cooperation to support their law enforcement authorities on the ground. Recognising the severity of the problem and the need for coordinated action, the EU has initiated several measures to encourage closer cooperation between Member States; it has furthermore adopted common legal, judicial and investigative frameworks to address organised crime. The European Parliament has made fighting organised crime a political priority and helped shape the relevant EU legislation. Future EU action will focus on implementing existing rules, improving operational cooperation – even beyond the EU's boundaries – and information-sharing, while also addressing some of the main criminal activities of organised crime groups. Furthermore, the EU aims to make sure that crime does not pay. This is an updated version of a briefing from September 2020.