EU Policy Cycle - EMPACT

Robust action to target the most pressing criminal threats

Europol has nine priority crime areas. For each one, a multi-annual strategic plan, an EMPACT (European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats) project and an operational action plan are implemented. The following table gives a brief overview of the nine EMPACT priorities:

Priority Aims

Facilitation of illegal immigration

To disrupt organised crime groups that facilitate illegal immigration through the main entry points to the EU, and in particular to fight their use of fraudulent documents to abuse legal channels for migration.

Trafficking in human beings

Disrupt organised crime groups that are involved in human trafficking both within the EU and into the EU from external source countries for the purpose of labour and sexual exploitation by, among others, groups using legal business structures (LBSs) to facilitate or disguise their criminal activities. (An LBS is an entity that an organised crime group owns or infiltrates in order to launder the proceeds of trafficking.)

Counterfeit goods

Disrupt the organised crime groups that are involved in the production and distribution of counterfeit goods violating health, safety and food regulations, and those that are producing sub-standard goods.

Excise and MTIC fraud

Reduce the capacity of organised crime groups and specialists involved in excise fraud and missing-trader and intra-community fraud.

Cocaine and heroin

Reduce cocaine and heroin trafficking to the EU and to disrupt the organised crime groups facilitating it.

Synthetic drugs

Reduce synthetic drugs - amphetamines, methamphetamine and ecstasy (MDMA),  trafficking to the EU and to disrupt the organised crime groups involved in trafficking them.

Illicit firearms trafficking

Reduce the risk of firearms to citizens, including combating illicit trafficking in firearms.

Organised property crime

Combat organised property crime committed by mobile organised crime groups (MOCGs), such as:

  • robberies, including armed robberies
  • burglaries
  • organised shoplifting and pick pocketing
  • cash-machine and cash-in-transit attacks
  • the theft of a range of high-value items (see below).


Combat cybercrime, such as online and payment card fraud, that:

  • is committed by organised crime groups
  • generates large criminal profits
  • causes serious harm to its victims (such as child sexual exploitation)
  • affects critical infrastructure and information systems in the EU (such as cyberattacks).

How the priorities have been established

In 2010, the EU set up a four-year policy cycle in order to create a greater measure of continuity for the fight against serious international and organised crime. The policy calls for effective cooperation among :

  • law enforcement agencies
  • other EU agencies
  • EU institutions
  • relevant third parties.

To that end, it also calls for robust action to target the most pressing criminal threats facing the EU. The first full policy cycle will run until 2017. It consists of four steps.

Step 1: The serious and organised crime threat assessment (SOCTA)

The role of SOCTA

From the setting and pursuit of strategic priorities to the implementation of actions at an operational level, it ensures that major criminal threats are tackled with an intelligence-led approach.

The SOCTA, developed by Europol, comprises a set of recommendations based on an in-depth analysis of the major crime threats facing the EU. On the basis of these, the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers has defined its priorities for the first policy cycle, which runs from 2014 to 2017.

The SOCTA plays a key role in the EMPACT policy cycle.

In preparing the current SOCTA, Europol analysed trends and patterns in current crime data, but it also scanned the environment for other factors that can be expected, over the four years of the current policy cycle, to influence the commission of crimes and the ability of law enforcement to stop them. This provides the basis for its forecast of future threats to EU internal security.

The analysis underpinning the development of priorities also supports the planning of operational actions.

EU Policy Cycle

Step 2: Strategic plans

Europol has developed multi-annual strategic plans (MASPs) on the basis of the priorities defined in step 1 in order to define the strategic goals for combating each threat.

Step 3: European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT)

The projects under EMPACT set out operational action plans (OAPs) to combat crime in the areas that have been assigned what is known as an EMPACT priority.

An OAP is designated for each objective, and Member States and EU organisations work in a coordinated fashion to implement each OAP.

Step 4: Evaluation

Information on the OAPs comes to Europol via its secure system, SIENA, for analysis. The intelligence derived from these investigations informs reviews by the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) . The reviews are conducted on the basis, among other things, of Europol’s Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessments (SOCTAs), which evaluate efforts to tackle crimes in the EMPACT priority areas. Based on its reviews, COSI may recommend adjustments within one and another area.

Successes attributable in whole or in part to the EMPACT cycle have already been seen in each of the priority crime areas, and there is every reason to expect that this trend will continue.