An official website of the European Union. See all European Institutions
Terrorists and terrorist groups are constantly evolving, and the evolving relationship between terrorism and organised crime poses significant challenges to the international community.
Activities of terrorists and organised criminal groups frequently reinforce each other. Terrorists may engage either directly or indirectly in organised crime activities such as trafficking, kidnapping for ransom or illicit trade. The nexus between terrorist groups and organized crime can vary from cooperation between groups, coexistence in the same areas or illicit businesses, all the way to convergence - adopting each other's tactics and motivations. The challenges presented by this nexus manifest themselves across the globe, but vary according to local context.
Links between terrorism and transnational organized crime can have global consequences. The United Nations has recognized this challenge and entities like UNODC and UNICRI are working to confront the issue in different regions of the world.
The EU is taking measures to confront this challenge internally and globally. A priority is to focus on improving information exchange and collaboration between our external Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) civilian missions and military operations worldwide, and our Justice and Home Affairs agencies such as Europol, Eurojust and Frontex. The development of a pilot project on a crime information cell within one of our military operations – EUNAVFOR-Med Sophia – is a good example of such collaboration and we work to enhance it further. Justice and Home Affairs agencies play a vital role in working to address both terrorism and organised crime; by increasing information flows on external threats we are better able to identify any potential links between organised criminals and terrorists within Europe and globally.
The effectiveness of counter-terrorism policies largely depends on coherence and coordination between internal and external EU security policies as well as on the establishment of a more comprehensive information-sharing system between Member States.
EU assessment shows that terrorism and the groups carrying out terrorist offences have evolved significantly over the last decade. The EU has been the target of repeated terrorist attacks in recent years. The investigations into these terrorist attacks uncovered the involvement of some of the perpetrators in different types of serious and organised crime including the trafficking of illicit drugs, as well as personal contacts with criminal groups involved in the trafficking of firearms and production of fraudulent documents. Recent investigations have revealed that terrorist groups have made use of migrant smuggling networks to allow their operatives to enter the EU. However, these cases do not suggest that terrorist groups maintain sustained engagement with organised criminal groups involved in migrant smuggling.
In spring 2017, the EU adopted its next 4-year plan for the fight against serious and organised crime. This so-called 'EU policy cycle' is an intelligence-led and multidisciplinary initiative which aims to stay one step ahead of the criminals. It involves notably law enforcement authorities and EU institutions and agencies, which work hand in hand.
Through legislative initiatives, the EU also targets the financing of terrorism and organised crime, by countering money laundering as well as easing cross-border freezing and confiscation of the proceeds of crime.
Still, more remains to be done. The existing or potential nature of the nexus between terrorism and transnational organised crime remains little understood and varies from region to region.
The Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) launched the Nexus between Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism Initiative, spearheaded by the Netherlands and implemented in partnership with UNICRI. Furthermore, both the Council of Europe as well as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are contributing in this area. The EU fully supports these initiatives in their aim to address different aspects of this nexus and to develop a set of internationally recognised good practices to help authorities at global, national and local level confront this problem.
In our collective efforts, we must avoid addressing these threats in silos. Instead we need to think holistically how we can assist partners to address the range of challenges. Developing effective State institutions and administration, rule of law mechanisms, functioning police, customs and intelligence services, as well as fair judiciaries will lead to multiple benefits in countering both terrorism and organised crime.
The EU welcomes the attention of the UN to this key topic, and looks forward to further strengthening international cooperation in this regard.