MEPs have called for the European Commission (EC) to review its legislation on organised crime and corruption with a view to better equipping member states with the tools they need to fight against criminal organisations operating in the 28-nation bloc.
In a non-binding resolution passed yesterday, members of the European Parliament demanded greater powers for EU nations that would allow them to more easily seize assets from criminal groups and use the proceeds for social purposes, much like proceeds of crime legislation in some member states, such as the UK. The MEPs also called for greater protection for whistle blowers who take risks to expose corruption ad criminality.
The Parliamentarians sought the adoption of a European Action Plan focused on fighting corruption, fraud and organised crime, as drafted by the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering (CRIM) back in 2013.
They said establishing a common method for confiscating the assets of serious and organised criminals would create a deterrent for those involved in wrongdoing, and called on the Commission to strengthen EU measures on “promoting the management of frozen and confiscated property and its re-use for social purposes” and as compensation for businesses and families of victims.
“Europe needs to understand the complex issue of organised crime and the danger arising from the infiltration of criminal associations into the social, economic, and political fabric of the member states,” said rapporteur Laura Ferrara (Italy/European Freedom and Direct Democracy). “The criminal codes of member states need to be fit for the challenge. This is why I call for urgent and incisive regulatory action at European level to provide law enforcement authorities with the necessary tools to properly fight organised crime groups across Europe.”
In their resolution, the MEPs called on the EC to draw up “blacklists of any undertakings which have proven links with organised crime or engaged in corrupt practices [and to] bar them from entering into an economic relationship with a public authority and benefitting from EU funds”. They also said the Commission should create mandatory guidelines to ban anybody with links to organised crime groups from standing for public office.
The resolution was adopted by 545 votes to 91, with 61 abstentions.
When the CRIM drafted its European Action Plan in 2013, Europol, the continent’s law enforcement agency, identified 3,600 organised crime groups operating in the EU. Along with drug trafficking, Europol noted a range of emerging criminal activity linked the bloc’s ongoing financial crisis and the internet, as well as a major uptick in people smuggling.
According to a 2014 report from the EC, corruption costs the EU around €120 billion a year, equal to approximately 1% of the union’s GDP.