EU contribution to forensic science
Getting tough on crime
Crime has a huge impact on the fabric of society. Mounting costs of insurance, security measures to prevent crime, as well as the costs of investigating and prosecuting serious crime, put a heavy burden on Europe’s national accounts. This expense can be reduced through the application of state-of-the-art forensic science. The European Union is committed to fighting all forms of serious, organised and transnational crime. In 1999, it reached the decision to create a network of national authorities responsible for crime prevention, leading to the formation of the European Crime Prevention Network in 2001.
In its Amsterdam Treaty, in 1999, the Union spelt out the importance – among other things – of freedom, security and justice in Europe. The Nice Treaty the following year underscored the need for a balanced approach to protecting the freedom and legal rights of individuals and businesses, in its stipulation that all citizens participate fully and without discrimination in the EU.
Nuclear forensic science In 1994, a dangerous cocktail of plutonium and uranium oxides was found in luggage at Munich’s airport. European Commission scientists analysed the powder using electron microscopy, revealing that it was a mixture of three distinct components. These were further analysed to show structural differences in the way each was prepared. Using new forensic techniques developed by the JRC, investigators were then able to pinpoint the exact manufacturer of the source materials.
Forensics sans frontiers Forensics is a key part of the intelligence work performed by Europol and national policing organisations in Europe. The widening of Europol’s mandate in January 2002 to deal with all serious forms of international crime is a tangible expression of the EU’s desire for a more integrated European response to crime. Working together with authorities in the Member States, Europol’s aim is to boost the EU’s law enforcement action, especially against international criminal organisations.
In addition, since the early 1990s, the EU has been supporting research activities devoted to the fight against fraud and crime, focusing on the areas of forensics, cyber-crime, counterfeiting, anti-doping in sport, and food safety and security.
The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), which provides independent scientific and technological support for EU policy-making, is proactive in research to protect citizens against cyber-crime and fraud. It is also involved at the ground level of the new and worrying area of illicit trafficking in nuclear materials, introducing a new discipline: nuclear forensic science.