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Fight against cross-border crime in the EU

Commission sharpens fight against cross-border crime in the EU

“If criminal gangs think that the EU has a soft touch on crime than they make a big mistake”, Vice-President Franco Frattini, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, said. In presenting a Commission’s proposal to severely punish members of organised crime groups wherever they operate in the EU, and a strategy to ensure exchange of criminal records between Member States and mutual recognition of criminal convictions within the territory of the EU. The Commissioner noted that such proposals would guarantee “that criminals are brought to justice regardless in which Member State they committed their crimes or fled to afterwards”.

As was stated in the Hague programme, the citizens of Europe rightly expect the European Union to take a more effective, joint approach to cross-border problems such as organised crime. With the adoption of a legislative proposal and a strategy document the European Commission has done precisely that and stepped up the fight against crime, be it organiszed or unorganised.

A proposal for a Council Framework Decision aims at harmonizing the definition of what constitutes a criminal organisation. Such an organisation is understood to be a structured association of at least two persons who, for material gain, commit serious crimes punishable with at least four years of imprisonment, such as trafficking in weapons, drugs or human beings, economic crimes or money laundering. It also proposes to punish leaders of such organisation with an imprisonment of at least ten years and participation, including supportive activities for the organisation, with five years of imprisonment. The proposal also envisages lowering of the sentence of those members of criminal organisation who cooperate with the authorities with a view to avoiding criminal activities to take place or assist in identifying and bringing to justice other offenders. The proposal also stipulates that Member States must cooperate and consult each other to coordinate their action and decide which Member State will prosecute the alleged offenders.

The second part of the Commission’s package in the fight against crime consists of a White Paper on exchanges of information on convictions and the effect of such convictions in the European Union. This Paper outlines the legal and policy strategy to be best followed ensuring that criminal records are exchanged between the competent authorities of the 25 Member States, and that convictions pronounced in other Member States are recognized. Such strategy, once implemented, will mean an enormous step forward in ensuring that criminals can no longer benefit from legal loopholes and differences between Member States’ national rules, but rather that European rules would ensure an efficient, fair and fast prosecution of those who have committed crimes in one Member State but have moved in the mean time to another Member State.

According to Europol, 3.000 criminal organisations were identified within the EU in 2001. In 2002, the EU counted 4000 of such organisations implicated 40.000 criminals.

According to the IMF, the money laundering of profits flowing from organised crime constitutes 2 % to 5% of the GDP.

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