The idea to establish a setting for efficient cooperation between European law enforcement authorities to tackle transnational crime is almost as old as the notion of European unity itself. Born out of concerns about international terrorism in the 1970s, the idea soon grew to cover other areas of cross-border crime within the European Community. In 1999, Europol, the European Police Office, was established mainly as an intelligence broker for coordinated police work in the European Union.

In today’s Europe of open borders, the threats to our security are not diminishing. Organised crime groups, terrorist attacks, pan-European fraud networks and international drug cartels are only a few examples in this context. New dangers are emerging in the form of cybercrime, VAT fraud and other sophisticated crimes which abuse modern technology and the freedoms offered by the EU’s open borders.

To counter these threats and protect the internal security of the European Union and the safety of its citizens, Europol and its staff of more than 900 have been vested with unprecedented powers, competences and resources.

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation is established with a view to support cooperation among law enforcement authorities in the EU. In that sense, Europol is often perceived as some kind of ‘European FBI’. However, Europol agents are not armed with guns, searching for criminals out on the streets. Its officers have no direct enforcement powers. Instead, when Europol officials enter the field, they do so in a supportive function and under the lead of national authorities.

Nevertheless, Europol has powerful weapons of its own. The agency is a hub of information, a centre of criminal intelligence and the working place for top analysts and experts from all EU Member States. Like the spider’s web that is part of its logo, Europol interconnects the national law enforcement authorities of the European Union, receives and distributes information, and coordinates joint operations.

Europol’s objectives are to support and strengthen action by the competent authorities of Member States in preventing and combating serious crime affecting two or more Member States, terrorism and forms of crime which affect a common interest covered by a Union policy .

Article 3 Europol Regulation (ER) and Annex I.

The core tasks of the agency in providing that support are to:

Article 4 ER.

The forms of crime for which Europol is competent are listed in Annex I of the Europol Regulation:


Organised crime

Drug trafficking

Money-laundering activities

Crime connected with nuclear and radioactive substances

Immigrant smuggling

Trafficking in human beings

Motor vehicle crime

Murder and grievous bodily injury

Illicit trade in human organs and tissue

Kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage-taking

Robbery and aggravated theft

Illicit trafficking in cultural goods, including antiquities and works of art

Swindling and fraud

Crime against the financial interests of the Union

Insider dealing and financial market manipulation

Racketeering and extortion

Counterfeiting and product piracy

Forgery of administrative documents and trafficking therein

Forgery of money and means of payment

Computer crime


Illicit trafficking in arms, ammunition and explosives

Illicit trafficking in endangered animal species

Illicit trafficking in endangered plant species and varieties

Environmental crime, including ship-source pollution

Illicit trafficking in hormonal substances and other growth promoters

Sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, including child abuse material and solicitation of children for sexual purposes

Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes