Strengthening the fight against Serious and Organised Crime in the EU
RAND Europe examined three types of ‘tools’ that member states can deploy in the fight against organised crime, in line with the aims of the 2021–2025 EU Strategy to Tackle Organised Crime.
What is the issue?
Tackling serious and organised crime (SOC) is a priority for the European Union (EU). Serious and organised crime is a significant challenge and threat for all European governments and citizens. The EU’s Strategy to Tackle Organised Crime 2021–2025 emphasised the need to ‘stay ahead’ of criminal organisations and ‘intensify’ collective action in a number of ways, including i) reinforcing and fully implementing existing EU instruments aiming to support cross-border cooperation; and ii) disrupting criminal structures and tackling the corruption, financing and technologies that organised crime relies upon.
How did we help?
On behalf of the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) of the European Commission, RAND Europe and EY looked at three topics that could be considered ‘tools’ that member states can deploy in the fight against organised crime, in line with the aims of the 2021–2025 EU Strategy to Tackle Organised Crime:
- The Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA on the fight against organised crime. We assessed whether this piece of legislation, which aims to ensure that all member states criminalise participation in a criminal organisation, has achieved its objectives, supports effective cooperation to tackle cross-border SOC and is fit for purpose.
- Witness protection. We assessed the extent to which the current legislative framework on the use, protection and handling of crown/principal witnesses and collaborators of justice supports effective cooperation to tackle cross-border SOC.
- Crimes that are ‘(technical) enablers’ of serious and organised crime. We explored whether member states have operational and strategic approaches to identify the links between offences that are ‘enablers’ of SOC (money laundering, document fraud, online trade in illicit goods and services, and corruption) and the broader picture of SOC.
What did we find?
Based on interviews, an EU-wide survey, workshops and a document review, our study describes the state of play in relation to these topics:
- While most member states have implemented the Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA in their national law – through an offence of participation in a criminal organisation – this does not seem to have made a significant contribution to the fight against organised crime.
- The absence of common EU rules on witness protection, and the different approaches taken to witness protection in member states, appear, in some cases, to pose challenges to cross-border cooperation. However, obstacles also stem from practical and operational challenges in protecting witnesses, including the potentially high cost of offering long-term protection.
- It is relatively uncommon for member states to articulate a strategy about if and when efforts should be made to identify links between SOC and enablers. Decisions about whether to investigate links between SOC and technical enablers appear to be taken on a case-by-case basis. The operational and strategic approaches used to tackle the different enablers are very varied.
What can be done?
This study had an exploratory nature and lays the groundwork for possible future studies, impact assessments or evaluations that could be requested by the European Commission. The study provides potential policy ideas for how the Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA and the rules on witness protection could be amended.