Serious and organised crime has been evolving over the last 20 years in terms of the number of criminal organisations, modus operandi, use of technology, and organised crime’s ability to infiltrate infrastructures, public sector and exploit legislative loopholes. This is one of the conclusions made at the 2019 European Police Chiefs Convention (EPCC). Over the last two days, more than 600 police chiefs and senior law enforcement representatives from 50 countries gathered at Europol's headquarters in The Hague for the EPCC, the most significant law enforcement convention in the EU. Co-hosted by Europol and the Finnish Police in the context of Finland's Presidency of the Council of the EU, the EPCC covered serious and organised crime and its manifestations and infiltration in society.
The annual event brings together police chiefs and high-level representatives from the EU and beyond, to exchange assessments of current and emerging criminal threats, challenges, and opportunities. Accordingly, the delegates discussed over three panels and hundreds of bilateral and multilateral meetings how serious and organised crime keeps evolving as a major challenge to EU security. There was a consensus among EU Member States’ law enforcement authorities and Europol that the increasingly cross-border nature of organised crime, often associated with violent acts among gangs, flourishing drug trafficking markets and related crimes such as money laundering and corruption pose a major challenge to our society. In certain areas of some EU Member States, a vicious cycle can be observed with increasing social exclusion, criminality, loss of trust in law enforcement and, in some cases, radicalisation.
Serious and organised crime has been evolving over the last 20 years in terms of:
- the number of criminal organisations;
- modus operandi, adaptability, sophistication and interconnection;
- use of technology;
- and their ability to infiltrate infrastructures, public sector and exploit legislative loopholes.
Meanwhile, new psychoactive substances, record levels of drugs production globally, organised migrant smuggling and the development of online criminality have all had profound effects on the criminal landscape.
Coinciding with the 2019 EPCC, several important developments are at a crucial stage, creating a rare intersection of opportunities and challenges for the European law enforcement community:
- rapid technological developments (e.g. encryption, 5G, big data, machine learning and cryptocurrencies) present both challenges and opportunities for criminal investigations;
- record levels of illicit drug cultivation and trafficking, with the EU as a leading consumer market.
Europol and Finland's Presidency of the Council of the EU concluded that a number of areas require particular attention. Among them are:
- refocusing attention on serious and organised crime as a grave threat to the internal security of the EU;
- the need to target the top-tier organised crime groups, developing further successful initiatives like the high-value target concept at Europol ;
- greater attention to financial and economic crime and criminal asset seizures, making sure crime doesn’t pay; welcoming new developments like the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) at Europol, and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO);
- greater engagement between law enforcement and the private sector, at national and EU (Europol) level;
- greater investment in crime prevention, requiring a multi-disciplinary approach involving government bodies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector;
- need for a global EU strategy on organised crime, which might expand on the EU Policy Cycle for International Serious and Organised Crime; and sustainable funding and resources for cross-border crime-fighting, comprising both Europol and EU-level funding and capacity building mechanisms;
- further development of EU policing solutions, such as Europol’s new decryption platform;
- greater and more coordinated investment in innovation in the law enforcement community, potential via an innovation platform hosted by Europol.
Europol's Executive Director Catherine De Bolle: “Crime in the 21st century is highly international and organised, and for law enforcement it is no longer good enough to be reactive. We must strengthen our cooperation and engage in foresight activities to understand emerging challenges and formulate innovative countermeasures. Europol's strategy 2020+ sets out our ambition to further establish Europol as an innovator in the European law enforcement community. The European Police Chiefs Convention shows that Europol has established itself as the EU criminal information hub. We will continue to enhance the value of our network by providing Member States with access to a growing number of partners and sources of information.”
Europol has organised the EPCC since 2010. This year this significant event had the highest ever turnout with 615 attendees. High-level representatives from all 28 EU Member States, 15 non-EU countries, agencies, and institutions of the EU (Eurojust, FRONTEX, OLAF, EUIPO), as well as international organisations attended the convention. Alongside the EPCC, two more major meetings were held at Europol: the EUROMED meeting and the European Customs DG meeting.
 The overall objective of the Euromed Police IV project funded by the European Union is to increase the citizen security across the Euro-Mediterranean area through the strengthening of cooperation on security issues between the Southern Mediterranean partner countries, as well as between these countries and the Member States of the European Union.