31/10/2011 MEPs say no to organised crime

At the plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday October 25th, a report on organised crime in the European Union was adopted. Coming down in favour of developing a proper European strategy on the issue, the Parliament particularly called for listing the fight against organised crime as one of the political priorities for the next Council Presidencies and approved creation of an anti-mafia committee.

“The European Parliament [...] is finally demonstrating a cross-party and adamant political will to move to action,” said MEP Rita Borsellino (S&D). Adoption of this report was good news for several MEPs who have been directly affected by organised crime. Rita Borsellino is the sister of Judge Paolo Borsellino who was killed in 1992 by Cosa Nostra. Rosario Crocetta (S&D) is under permanent police protection because of her fight against the mafia in Italy. Rapporteur Sonia Alfano (ALDE) dedicated her work to “all the innocent victims of organised crime and the mafia and to those who have sacrificed their lives trying to prevent such activity”.

An ever-present phenomenon in some EU countries

With a turnover of at least €135 billion, equivalent to the GDP of six Member States, criminal organisations in the European Union represent a real threat for European economies as well as for the fundamental freedoms of European citizens. MEPs therefore decided to adopt MEP Sonia Alfano’s (ALDE IT) report. The aim of this report is to fight mafia infiltration in politics, the economy, finance and public administration as organised crime is still a pressing issue in some EU countries.

For example, the presidential elections in Bulgaria were heavily monitored for fear of vote buying. Voting centres in the poor Iztok area in Kyustendil (with a mostly Roma population) were closed. Residents went to vote in a city centre voting station which was easier to monitor. NGO Transparency International believes that between 12% and 14% of the votes cast in Bulgarian elections since 2003 were bought. In a study, the Open Society highlights the fact that 30% to 40% of Bulgarian voters do not rule out accepting money in exchange for their vote. Antony Galabov, an expert at Transparency International, points to the mafia practices of the “political-economic oligarchy” that in the wake of the fall of communism, built empires on quasi-legal activities.

Creation of a special committee on the impacts of organised crime in Europe was warmly welcomed

Before the voting began, MEP Rosario Crocetta stated that “from now on, the fight against the mafia has become the Parliament’s business”. She particularly welcomed the establishment of the new committee to fight organised crime.

This committee should is expected to be set up within three months. It will have a mandate of six months to develop a collection of legislative recommendations on the subject for the European Commission and Member State governments.

Measures to strengthen freedom, security and justice   

The report also contains provisions calling on Member States to improve police and judicial cooperation in this area, particularly by developing common and homogenous practices and criminal charging procedures. The report advocates fighting this transnational phenomenon via cooperation among national authorities, Eurojust, Europol, OLAF and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The area of freedom, security and justice covers several fields such as immigration, asylum, police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, cooperation among customs across Member States as well as the fight against terrorism and criminality. 

Member States are also invited to strengthen judicial and police cooperation within the European Union as MEPs believe that measures are called for to raise awareness and inform judicial and police authorities about this scourge. The report mainly focuses on judicial cooperation and calls for development of the principle of mutual recognition for judicial decisions. This recognition is an “essential part of the report”, according to Salvatore Iacolino (EPP) as it removes “barriers between Member States when it comes to fighting organised crime and the mafia”. Furthermore, MEPs have high hopes that a European Prosecutor will be nominated.

Mr. Iacolino would also like to see mafia assets that are confiscated being used for social purposes. In a press release, he stated that currently this legislation only exists in Italian and Spanish law. He also proposes developing legislation that is more directed at excluding companies with links to the mafia and organised crime from public procurement offers in all Member States.

The European Parliament is now awaiting a draft directive from the European Commission

The Parliament is calling on the European Commission to present a draft directive by the end of 2013 that will consider association with a mafia or any other criminal organisation as a punishable offence in all Member States. This has been considered a crime in Italy since 1982.

MEPs also want the Commission to include in this draft directive provisions covering:

  • Defined standards to guarantee (to the relevant authorities, European citizens and the media) the total traceability of how European funds are used;
  • Development of clear guidelines on the traceability of funds to enable identification of laundered money from illegal activity;
  • Strengthening judicial and police authorities on the basis of current best practices in all Member States;
  • Development of proactive investigation methods and national plans to fight organised crime;
  • Central coordination of actions by the appropriate structures.

In addition, MEPs are calling on Parliament to do everything in its power to prevent any individual with a conviction for participating in organised crime from standing for election in the European Parliament.

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