Law enforcement in Europe joins forces across borders to fight crime. To keep one step ahead of criminals, police, customs and border guards need to work together much more closely in future.
To shape this law enforcement cooperation, we are today asking your opinion on a new EU police cooperation code.
70% of criminal networks are active in more than three Member States. 65% of criminal groups are composed of multiple nationalities.
Organised crime is a growing threat and a violent threat, undermining our economy, society and the rule of law. Last week I launched a Strategy to tackle Organised Crime and a Strategy on combatting Trafficking in Human Beings – perhaps the worst form of organised crime – treating people as a commodity, exploiting them for sex or labour.
Crime fighting success depends on the work policewomen and men do every day all over Europe. I want to give police the tools to do their job better, and make the lives of criminals harder.
I want to make it easier for police, to work together across borders.
This is essential to fight crime in all its forms. From organised, serious and violent crimes including contract killings and torture, drug and gun smuggling, to the criminal networks carrying out cross border thefts, burglaries and robberies.
We can build on many successes.
Every year Member States carry out 200 joint operations in the EMPACT – cycle, the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats. These are very successful operations, leading to many arrests, boosting prevention, training and cooperation with partners outside the EU.
Over the years, European law enforcement have built up long-standing practice of cooperation, bringing security, confidence and mutual trust.
This cooperation is based on a system of EU legislation, recommendations, and agreements between Member States, which over time has become increasingly complex. Too complex.
We now need to simplify, unify, and fortify these rules.
Not all Member States carry out all EU rules equally. Overlapping or different rules and agreements can cause confusion. Criminals exploit the gaps in the system.
For example, when it comes to hot pursuit across borders – allowed between some Member States, less so between others. Criminals play cat and mouse games with police – crossing borders to escape police cars on their tail. Or deliberately rob targets close to borders, for a quick and easy getaway.
We need to improve information exchange. National single points of contact bring together law enforcement agencies to share information. Not all of these contact points are fit for purpose. Ageing IT systems make it difficult for officers in the street to do their jobs.
We need to streamline rules for cross-border investigations. Cross-border surveillance is increasingly important to combat transnational crime. But measures and procedures for approval vary widely from one country to the next. So do rules on search and arrest powers during surveillance operations.
It’s time to move from ad-hoc police cooperation, to permanent police partnerships.
This year I will propose an EU police cooperation code, to simplify, unify and develop existing frameworks and agreements into one coherent and modern rulebook.
So that in future, every law enforcement officer in Europe can see at a glance, what their rights and obligations are in cross border policing.
To do that, we need answers to many questions.
How effective are existing rules and agreements to fight specific crimes, such as drug trafficking, terrorism, and environmental crime?
What are the biggest obstacles to current law enforcement cooperation? And the greatest opportunities? What are promising law enforcement instruments– for example, cross border surveillance, covert investigations, witness protection, joint patrols?
How can we best ensure the safety of international sporting and cultural events? What about cooperation in times of crises, like during pandemics and natural disasters?
How do we best fight cross border crime? Not only the serious and violent criminal networks smuggling drugs and guns, but also the mobile groups of petty criminals that rob and steal across borders, and individual offenders committing crimes?
To shape the EU police cooperation code, I am now asking the people who know best for advice in a public consultation. National and European law enforcement agencies. Non-governmental organisations. Academics. And anyone else with good ideas.