On 23 and 24 September 2015, over 300 high-level representatives from 50 countries and a dozen international and European organisations attended the European Police Chiefs Convention (EPCC) at Europol headquarters in The Hague. This year the police chiefs and senior representatives of national and international law enforcement authorities, European Union institutions and agencies, as well as academia, gathered to discuss counter terrorism and illegal immigration issues.
Illegal immigration was also high on the agenda of bilateral and multilateral meetings of police chiefs. Law enforcement leaders discussed, among other topics, how to strengthen cooperation and information exchange in an effort to identify key criminals involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration. Moreover, a dedicated meeting of the Salzburg Forum European Union Member States and Central and Southeast European partner countries was held to discuss the serious challenges that these countries are facing due to the increased migratory pressure.
The European Police Chiefs Convention has been organised by Europol since 2011. It is a unique forum for senior law enforcement representatives to meet annually, exchange views and identify common ground on the most topical issues relating to the European Union's security and law enforcement cooperation.
Distinguished speakers included: Mr Philippe Schrantz, Director General of the Grand Ducal Police representing the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU and a co-organiser of the 2015 EPCC; Mr James Comey, Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation; Mr Alessandro Pansa, Chief of the Italian Police; Mr Alain Bellot, Director General of Luxembourg Customs; Mr Ingacio Cosidό, Director General of the Spanish National Police; and Mr Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The European Police Chiefs Convention was preceded by intensive work from law enforcement expert groups who produced dedicated reports in the first half of 2015. The message from their reports is clear: Europe is facing an evolving threat from terrorism. The most dangerous terrorist groups in the world have the intent and capability to carry out attacks against the European Union and the West in general. There is a threat of attacks from unaffiliated lone actors or small groups of radicalised individuals, as has already happened in the most recent terrorist incidents in Europe. There is also an evolving challenge from terrorists spreading their propaganda online using the Internet and social media. However, as Rob Wainwright emphasised: "Europe's political leaders were quick to recognise the seriousness of these threats and to reinforce their response."
Mr Wainwright said as well that "despite the few brutal terrorist attacks carried out this and last year, a far greater number of attacks have been disrupted, thanks to the dedication and effective working methods of our agencies. The lesson learned is that cross-border cooperation must be part of these methods. In recognition of this need, Europol is building up its counter terrorism capabilities to offer services tailored to the needs of the European Union Member States' agencies and to decisively respond to the evolving terrorist threat."
Alongside the European Police Chiefs Convention, Europol held a meeting of high-level counter terrorism experts on the phenomenon of foreign fighters. The meeting was convened following an increasing need and readiness of the Member States to boost counter terrorism cooperation and intensify information exchange in a secure way, using existing Europol capabilities to this end.