Operational cooperation between EU countries’ law enforcement authorities, such as information exchange, is essential to ensure security inside the EU.
The Commission and EU law enforcement agencies enhance operational cooperation, notably through:
The legal framework introduced by the Lisbon Treaty provides further legal and practical arrangements to make operational cooperation between EU countries’ law enforcement authorities more effective.
The current 4-year cycle (2018-2021) of EMPACT targets the most important criminal threats affecting the EU through cooperation between EU countries’ law enforcement and competent authorities, EU agencies (Europol, Frontex, CEPOL, Eurojust etc.), EU institutions, and, where relevant, other public and private organisations and non-EU countries.
The current cycle adresses 10 EU crime priorities:
On average, around 200 operational actions take place yearly. These include joint investigations, training, prevention, cooperation with third countries, improvement of the intelligence picture on certain new crime phenomenon etc.
The Commission financially supports the implementation of the EU policy cycle and is responsible for its evaluation.
The independent evaluation of EMPACT, entrusted to the Commission and conducted in 2020, concluded that the EU Policy Cycle/EMPACT is relevant and effective in tackling the most pressing threats posed by organised crime groups. It has become increasingly efficient, proves to be internally and externally coherent, and brings EU added value by providing a sound platform for co-operation that enables EU Member States to achieve better results against serious and organised crime, than if they had tackled these issues alone.
As crime has become more global, we need closer cross-border cooperation between competent authorities and more joint operations involving the police, gendarmerie, customs, border guards and judicial authorities of different EU countries. This is achieved via joint investigation teams (JITs).
JITs are set up by the competent authorities of minimum two EU countries, for a specific purpose and a limited period of time, to carry out criminal investigations in one or more of these countries.
Seconded members from other EU countries, Europol, the EU Agency for criminal justice cooperation (Eurojust) and the European anti-fraud office (OLAF) may take part in a JIT and support the team in various ways.
EU specialised agencies support operational cooperation between EU countries' law enforcement authorities. They help assess common security threats, define common priorities for operational action, and they promote and facilitate cross-border cooperation and prosecution.
These agencies are Europol, CEPOL, the European border and coast guard agency (Frontex), the EU Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (eu-LISA), the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction (EMCDDA), the European asylum support office (EASO), and Eurojust.
In 2008, the Council decided to improve cooperation between EU countries’ special intervention units in man-made crises that present a serious and direct physical threat to people, property, infrastructure or institutions - for example, hostage taking and hijacking.
The Council decision defines the general rules and conditions under which these units can intervene, based on a EU country’s request. This clear framework allows to gain time during a crisis. The regular meetings and joint trainings foreseen by this framework ensure that special intervention units benefit from mutual experience.
Cross-border cooperation between national financial intelligence units (FIUs) and national asset recovery offices (AROs) helps combat money laundering and access the illicit proceeds of crime.
Similarly, customs authorities cooperate to better manage risks in the international supply chain while facilitating legitimate trade.
Specialised units also cooperate, within their respective legal mandates, to tackle environmental crime.
Since the creation of the area of justice, freedom and security in which goods, people, services and capitals move freely, operational cross-border police cooperation is more than ever essential for an effective Security Union.
EU countries can use several EU tools to organise their cross-border operational police cooperation, such as:
Police and customs cooperation centres (PCCCs) in internal border regions bring together, in one place, the law enforcement authorities of different EU countries.
The EU co-funds PCCCs for experience and best practices exchange. Although most of the information exchanged in PCCCs doesn’t concern serious and organised crime, it is important that information on such cases is passed up to the national level and, where appropriate, to Europol.
Police cooperation between Schengen countries is one of the six fields evaluated under the Council’s evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis (2013).
Around five on-site visits of evaluated Schengen countries are conducted per year by evaluation teams consisting of Commission and Schengen countries’ experts and an observer from Europol.