Migration and Home Affairs

Operational cooperation

Another important element for the realisation of a genuine area of EU internal security is operational cooperation between law enforcement authorities of Member States.

The Commission and EU agencies contribute to the enhancement of law enforcement cooperation, notably through

  1. the EU Policy Cycle for serious and organised crime,
  2. assisting Member States in the implementation of existing legislation on cross-border cooperation such as joint investigations against cross-border crime, and
  3. the support to Member States provided by EU agencies such as Europol and CEPOL. Furthermore, the legal framework introduced by the Lisbon Treaty provides further legal and practical arrangements to make operational cooperation between authorities of different Member States effective.

EU Policy Cycle for serious and organised crime / EMPACT

The objective of this 4-years cycle is to target the most important criminal threats affecting the EU. This is done through cooperation between the Member States’ law enforcement agencies, EU Agencies (Europol, Frontex, CEPOL, Eurojust etc.), EU Institutions and where relevant other public and private organizations and non-EU countries. For 2018-2021 10 EU crime priorities were identified: drugs trafficking, facilitated illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings, excise and VAT fraud, cybercrime, firearms trafficking, organised property crime, environmental crime, document fraud and criminal finances and asset recovery. Every year in average over operational 200 actions take place that include joint investigations, training, prevention, cooperation with third countries, improvement of the intelligence picture on certain new crime phenomenon, etc.

The Commission provides financial support for the implementation of the EU Policy Cycle and is responsible for the evaluation at the end of the Policy Cycle. The evaluation of the precious cycle 2013-2017 concluded that the EU Policy Cycle had improved the cooperation between Member States, has led to an improvement in the exchange of information, the sharing of good practices and the launch of joint investigations by the Member States. It has also contributed to building relations and trust, including with third countries.

For more information visit EU fight against organised crime or EU Policy Cycle - EMPACT.

EU specialised agencies

EU specialised agencies, such as Europol, CEPOL, Frontex, EU-Lisa, EMCDDA, EASO, and Eurojust, play a crucial role in supporting operational cooperation between Member States' law enforcement authorities. They contribute to the assessment of common security threats, they help to define common priorities for operational action, and they promote and facilitate cross-border cooperation and prosecution.

Joint Investigation Teams (JITs)

The criminal landscape is increasingly characterised by highly mobile and flexible groups operating in different EU Member States and criminal sectors and aided, in particular, by the widespread illicit use of the Internet. Criminal networks and their activities become more and more international. This trend calls for strengthened cross-border cooperation between competent authorities and for more joint operations involving police, customs, border guards and judicial authorities in different EU Member States. Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) are an instrument for achieving this closer cooperation (see also Framework Decision on Joint Investigation Teams).

The competent authorities of two or more EU Member States can set up a JIT for a specific purpose and a limited period of time to carry out criminal investigations in one or more of the EU States setting up the team. In particular, a JIT can be set up when: (i) an EU State's investigations into criminal offences require difficult and demanding investigations having links with other EU States; (ii) a number of EU States are conducting investigations into criminal offences in which the circumstances of the case necessitate coordinated, concerted action in the EU Member States involved.

In addition to the competent authorities of the EU Member States setting up the JIT, seconded members from other EU Member States, Europol, Eurojust and OLAF may take part in the JIT and support the team. For example, Eurojust can make an official request to the competent authorities of an EU State to set up a JIT, help set up a JIT agreement or support the activities via funding provided by the Commission. Europol can support the setting up and work of JITs, inter alia, with its fast and secure communication and information exchange network (SIENA), logistical and forensic expertise and analysis capabilities.

Cooperation between specialised intervention units

The Council Decision on cooperation between special intervention units aims to improve cooperation between Member States' special intervention units in man-made crisis situations that present a serious and direct physical threat to persons, property, infrastructure or institutions, in particular hostage taking, hijacking and similar events. The Decision establishes the general rules and conditions for the provision of assistance by these units to any requesting Member State.

The availability of this legal framework and of a compilation indicating the competent authorities aims to allow Member States to react speedily and gain time should such a crisis situation arise. Moreover, with a view to enhancing Member States' ability to prevent and respond to such crisis situations, and in particular terrorist incidents, it allows for the special intervention units to meet regularly and organise joint trainings, so as to benefit from mutual experiences.

Networks of national specialised units

Cooperation in networks of national specialised units is another effective way of ensuring operational cooperation across borders. Cross-border cooperation between national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) and national Asset Recovery Offices (AROs) helps to combat money laundering and to access the illicit proceeds of crime. Similarly, customs authorities cooperate in the management of risks in the international supply chain to ensure that customs is more effective in tackling risks in the international supply chain while facilitating legitimate trade. Specialised units also cooperate – within their respective legal mandates – to tackle environmental crime.

Police and Customs Cooperation Centres

Police and Customs Cooperation Centres (PCCCs) in border regions provide added value through bringing together on one site the law enforcement authorities of different Member States. The EU supports the growing number of PCCCs with co-funding to exchange experience and best practices. Although most of the information exchanged in PCCCs does not 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.

Schengen evaluations in the field of police cooperation

Regulation (EU) 1053/2013 establishing an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis came into force in November 2013. Evaluations under this mechanism have been carried out since January 2015. One of the 6 fields evaluated is police cooperation between Schengen States. Around 5 on-site visits of evaluated Schengen States are conducted per year by evaluation teams consisting of Commission and Schengen State' experts and an observer from Europol. The evaluation reports rate the evaluated country as "compliant", "compliant but improvement necessary" or "non-compliant" with the provisions of the Schengen acquis. Good practices identified are also described.

Operational police cooperation

Since the creation of the area of justice, freedom and security in which goods, persons, services and capitals move freely, operational cross-border police cooperation is more than ever essential in contributing to an affective Security Union

A number of EU tools are available to Member States to organise their cross-border operational police cooperation such as the national Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for law enforcement information exchange, Police Customs Cooperation Centres (PCCC) in internal border areas, legislation on how to organise cross-border hot pursuits and surveillances, joint patrols, joint operations.