The abolishment of internal border controls within the EU is a very good thing for us citizens, as we can now move freely between the countries. It has also meant a lot for the economy, and for trade. However, it has also meant that we have had to work with new and more efficient methods to counter those we do not want to cross borders – the criminals. During the last years we have developed closer police cooperation through Europol, improved EU-legislation and introduced more preventive measures. In January last year the EC3 (European Cybercrime Centre – a new part of Europol), was inaugurated. It focuses on online-crime performed by organized criminal groups and in particular attacks against e-banking services and other financial activities, online sexual exploitation of children as well as crimes affecting important infrastructures and information systems in the EU. Cybercrime is a rapidly growing problem and the EC3 is an important tool in combating this cross-border crime. The Centre has been highly successful during 2013 and has for example contributed in catching criminal gangs stealing payment-card information as well as the arrest of thousands of online pedophiles.
An EC3-report from October, covering trends in the distribution of materials depicting child sexual abuse gave us frightening insights into how perpetrators behave and find new ways to escape the police. Our Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online has now been up and running for about a year. During this year, the Alliance has grown to include 52 countries. In our global cooperation we have established that there in all countries must be specific police units working against the distribution of material on child sexual abuse. It shall also be easier to set up joint investigations.
With regards to border controls, to increase security and facilitate the free movement within the Schengen area, the second generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) became operational during 2013. With SIS II, the national border control, customs and police authorities can exchange information on persons who may have been involved in serious crimes more easily. In the system, information is registered on missing persons, especially children and e.g. bills, cars, vans, firearms and identity documents that may have been stolen, abducted or reported missing.
That security police in countries all over the world are monitoring individuals when searching for terrorists is nothing new, but the allegations of NSA’s activities was a disappointing discovery and fundamentally shook the relations with the US. Meanwhile, the NSA-scandal led to an important debate on integrity and discussions that hopefully can bring improved and clearer limits on surveillance and information exchange. The fight against terrorism and extremism is tremendously important, but we must not compromise human rights and fundamental freedoms. In light of Snowden’s allegations, we are now hoping to get in place new data protection rules and a comprehensive data protection agreement with the US. I also follow the debate in the US on NSA’s powers with great interest, and I sincerely hope that it will lead to greater controls and restrictions. In Europe we saw frightening examples during 2013, on how extreme movements are growing stronger and intolerance is increasing. Not since WWII have there been so many xenophobic parties in Europe’s parliaments as there are today. To prevent and halt the spread of extremism and racism is not only necessary, it is our moral obligation. During 2013 the RAN-network has continued its work and their report will be presented within a few weeks.
An increasing number of trafficking victims are found in the EU and we have developed various ambitious measures and strategies to help the victims and stop this horrible crime. It was therefore a great disappointment when we in April found that only six (!) Member States had implemented the Directive on human trafficking, despite it having passed its two-year deadline. Part of 2013 was therefore devoted to chasing the remaining 22 governments. Now, 20 Member States have completely introduced the EU-legislation in their national legislation and three countries have implemented parts. The work continues. To support all good forces we last year launched the “EU Civil Society Platform Against Trafficking”, which brings together over one hundred European NGOs. The EU-platform will serve as a forum for NGOs at European, national and local levels. During the year we have also seen important debates and actions in several Member States to address the problem of trafficking and to reduce the demand for the services of prostitutes.
We also need to ensure that organized criminals cannot launder their money through the banking system and we need to improve our skills on how to seize the assets of criminals. There must not be any loopholes that organized criminals or terrorists can slip through. In February last year my colleague Barnier and I introduced a proposal on the countering of money laundering. The legal economy needs to be protected, especially in these times of crisis. Early in December, the ambassadors of the EU Member States (COREPER), together with the European Parliament, agreed on new legislation on how to confiscate profits from criminal activities (Directive on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime in the European Union). Formal adoption of these new rules will take place in the beginning of this year. It fills important gaps in our legislation, currently exploited by organized criminal groups.