On the closing day of the first ever European Police Chiefs Convention, Europol’s Director, Rob Wainwright, spoke of the urgent need to improve the strategic understanding of the challenges faced by organised crime and terrorism, and to develop innovative and more effective responses to it, building a thorough profile and casting an eye to the future.
Mr Wainwright addressed an audience including Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs and Ronald Noble, Secretary General of Interpol. Also present were almost 300 Chiefs of Police, senior law enforcement officers and academic experts who today presented the results of their work to EU Home Affairs Ministers, consisting of a set of conclusions for tackling organised crime and terrorism.
The debates over the last three days focused on the combating and prevention of serious organised crime and terrorism affecting Europe, with Convention delegates participating in high-level discussions and working groups in order to agree on joint directions and guidelines for future policies.
In the area of counter terrorism, conclusions reached identified the need for:
- A de-radicalisation and prevention of radicalisation in society, with a more integrated approach to include all actors involved such as police, justice, schools and social services
- The harmonisation and interconnection of criminal and intelligence databases, alongside the development of concrete best practices and pragmatic training to create a real European law enforcement culture
- Flexible private partnerships to be encouraged as well as dialogue with vulnerable communities
- The development of a comprehensive strategy for security matters that encompasses all types of threats
- The easing of administrative boundaries that currently exist between key agencies (Europol, SITCEN, Frontex, etc) in order to facilitate cooperation and information exchange in a more pragmatic way
- Obligatory reporting to Europol of all terrorist events in Member States
- A more ambitious role for Europol, enabling it to engage itself more easily to counteract the borderless dimension of modern crime and terrorism. Some working group participants were of the opinion that executive powers for Europol may become necessary in this respect.
The conclusions reached on organised crime advocate a more creative approach to combating criminality that looks beyond traditional law enforcement investigations, prosecutions and surveillance methods. This would encompass a wide range of administrative and preventative measures, including serious crime prevention orders already in use in some Member States.
Recognising that generating profit is an important motivation for criminal groups, asset recovery and financial investigation capabilities must be strengthened, to increase the risk to criminal proceeds. Specific measures such as the establishment of a common EU platform for confiscation, financial reporting orders, and reversal of the burden of proof, as has already been introduced in some Member States, should also be considered as tools for reducing the rewards of organised crime.
In light of the increasingly blurred distinction between internal and external security, EU law enforcement would benefit from expanding its support and promotion of intelligence-led investigation in developing countries and other areas of the world whose criminal groups impact on Member States. More generally, good practice should be shared on initiatives for capacity building in fragile states, with a view to preventing significant infiltration by criminal groups.
Last, but by no means least, law enforcement has an unprecedented opportunity to work in partnership with the citizens of the EU. The use of internet services such as social media to generate community intelligence and distribute crime prevention guidance would not only provide reassurance, but would also empower the public to assist law enforcement in the fight against organised crime.