According to new plans detailed by the European Commission on 14 April 2021, the European Union will seek to increase police cooperation, target human trafficking and establish new rules to counter money laundering.

The new proposal

As reported by Reuters, the new five-year roadmap – following the previous action plan released in 2020 – includes a series of legislative proposals and initiatives against organised criminal groups, which will require approval from EU countries and the European Parliament.

Key features of the proposed roadmap include:

  • The establishment of a new police cooperation code and the negotiation of a Europol-Interpol cooperation agreement.
  • New anti-money laundering rules and the updating of laws regarding confiscating criminal profits (currently only 1% of criminal assets are confiscated).
  • The review of guidance on data retention and new ways for law enforcement authorities to gain access to encrypted information.
  • The setting of minimum EU rules on criminalising the knowing use of services exploiting trafficked people.

The scale of the issue

The acknowledgement that 80% of crimes now have a digital component is the key driver behind the commission’s attention to data retention rules, system encryption and online services connected to human trafficking and other illegal activities.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also created new routes for potential exploitation. One example mentioned by the Commission is that criminal groups have already attempted selling over 1 billion fake or non-existent vaccine doses. The Commission also said criminal groups’ revenues from trafficking arms, drugs or people, smuggling migrants, cybercrime and other major offences amounted to 139 billion euros (USD166 billion) in 2019, which is the equivalent to 1% of EU gross domestic product.

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