With new measures for the next five years, the EU Commission plans to take more effective action against criminal organizations. Among others, the strategy builds on more intensive cooperation of the bloc’s member states – and includes specific steps against counterfeiting.

The European Commission’s new EU Strategy to tackle Organised Crime, announced in mid-April, focuses in particular on cross-border actions against organized criminal structures. To reach this goal, the business models and profits of criminal groups should be dismantled, both online and offline. „Criminal syndicates increasingly use new technologies and seize any opportunity to expand their illegal activities, online or offline“, says Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life.

About 65 percent of the criminal organizations active in the EU are transnational groups, according to the Commission. An effective exchange of information is therefore essential for taking strong action against them. Schinas emphasizes the importance of improved cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the judiciary in order to dismantle criminal business models: “Today’s Strategy will help hit these criminals where it hurts the most, by undermining their business model which thrives on a lack of coordination between states.” To this end, the EU Commission plans, for example, to modernize and reinforce the European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT) and to introduce an EU Police Cooperation Code. The EU Commission also suggests a cooperation agreement with Interpol.

To take stronger action against counterfeiting, the Commission plans to create an EU toolbox against counterfeiting by 2022. It’s aim is to establish principles for joint actions, cooperation, and information transfer between authorities, rights holders, and third parties. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are to be a particular focus. Their prevalence is on the rise, with an alarming increase during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have already detected attempted scam sales of over 1 billion vaccine doses”, says Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs. Counterfeiting is considered one of the high-priority crimes, according to the strategy paper. Fakes account for 6.8 percent of imports into the EU; and represent a significant source of revenue for organized criminal groups, according to the report.

“With the measures we’re proposing today, we’ll be moving from occasional police cooperation to permanent police partnerships, and we’ll follow the money to catch criminals in financial investigations,” Johansson continues. To further freeze money flows, the EU Commission also advises establishing new European rules to confiscate criminal profits; to further develop existing rules against money laundering; and to launch financial investigations at an early stage. Moreover, to track criminal groups online, options for digital investigations are e.g. being evaluated.

Source: European Commission