Pan-european police co-operation in the fight against organised crime and corruption respecting the principles of states governed by the rule of law

1st High-level meeting of the Ministries of Interior
5-6 November 1998, Strasbourg (France)


Presented by Mr Jean-Jack QUEYRANNE, Minister of the Interior a.i. of France

1. The Ministers recall that, in the Final Declaration which they adopted at their Second Summit (Strasbourg, 10-11 October 1997), the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe expressed concern at the new dimension of threats to citizen security and the dangers which these threats constituted for democracy, and decided to seek common responses to the challenges posed by the growth of corruption, organised crime, drug trafficking and money laundering throughout Europe. In seeking these responses, the fundamental freedoms defended and promoted by the Council of Europe for nearly 50 years, and enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and other legal instruments, were to be fully respected.

2. The Ministers note with concern the gravity of the situation, as described by several speakers at the meeting. They note the increase in the number of serious offences, the growth and diversification of the activities of organised criminal groups, and their infiltration of the political, economic and social fabric. The Ministers pay tribute to the courage and determination of the authorities in the most seriously affected countries, and particularly to the efforts made, in unusually difficult conditions, by police forces in their daily struggle against criminal groups.

3. The Ministers consider that, in a world where frontiers are losing some of their importance, any analysis of organised crime must start from an international standpoint. They are convinced that an international perspective and international resources hold the only key to effective action against international criminal groups and unlawful trafficking. They note with interest implementation of the Programme of action against organised crime adopted at the European Union, as well as the work currently being done by the United Nations with a view to drafting a Convention on organised crime.

4. The Ministers consider that it is essential to make optimum use of the international instruments for co-operation in criminal matters which already exist at bilateral and multilateral level, and particularly those concluded within the Council of Europe. They stress that it is vital to take full advantage of the communication and information exchange channels established by Interpol and Europol. They consider that the co-operation machinery which operates at regional level between Council of Europe member states, and which is already yielding promising results, should be taken as a model.

5. The Ministers regard the Council of Europe as the international organisation best equipped to make Europeans aware of the dangers which threaten their security and democratic institutions. In view of its experience in defending human rights and the rule of law, the Council of Europe has a decisive role to play in approximating European public opinions to the need for a common area of security.

6. The Ministers stress their attachment to continuation of the work already being done to consolidate democratic structures and the rule of law in Europe. In this connection, they attach the greatest importance to police training, particularly under the Programme of Activities for the Development of Democratic Stability (ADACS) and a series of programmes run jointly by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. The Ministers also welcome the signing of the so-called ‘Octopus II’ Agreement between the Council of Europe and the Commission of the European Communities for the purpose of reinforcing legislative and structural policy to combat corruption and organised crime in the countries of central and eastern Europe.

7. The lack of reliable data on organised crime makes it hard to plan strategies to combat this relatively little known form of crime. The Ministers welcome the preparation of the first pan-European report on the situation regarding organised crime in the Council of Europe’s member States and hope that this work will be extended and continued in the future. They also call on the Council of Europe to prepare comparative analysis of practices employed in combating organised crime as a source of inspiration for the relevant authorities in all the member States.

8. The financial power of certain criminal groups allows them to influence, and even corrupt, the structures of the State. These groups use corruption to avoid law enforcement, misuse the democratic decision-making processes, and infiltrate the political and economic authorities. The Ministers welcome the action taken at the Council of Europe to combat corruption and the adoption of:
• the 20 Guiding Principles for the Fight against Corruption;
• the Agreement on the “Group of States against Corruption – GRECO”, which is the institution responsible for monitoring compliance with international commitments regarding the fight against corruption;
• the Criminal Law Convention on corruption.

9. The Ministers appeal to all States to join the GRECO and to sign the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption without delay. They also encourage the Multi-Disciplinary Group on Corruption (GMC) to continue its work.

10. The Ministers note that organised criminal groups are exploiting the global telecommunications networks to commit new types of crime or misuse the unprecedented communication possibilities which they offer. They hope that the Council of Europe will soon complete its work on an international treaty against cyber-crime, making it possible, inter alia, to conduct transborder network investigations.

11. By definition, organised crime sets out to accumulate financial gains. Most of the proceeds are laundered to give them a lawful appearance and facilitate their injection into global financial circuits. International co-operation against money laundering is essential here. The Ministers note with satisfaction the growing number of ratifications of the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (ETS No.141). They consider that this Convention should be reinforced with new provisions to facilitate the conducting of enquiries and confiscation of unlawful proceeds at international level, with the help of measures such as the elimination of tax havens and offshore zones, the lifting of bank secrecy or the sharing of confiscated assets. The Council of Europe should regularly monitor the Convention’s application.

12. In this connection, the Ministers note with satisfaction that a system for mutual evaluation of anti-laundering measures, inspired and supported by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), was set up at the Council of Europe in 1997. This machinery should be consolidated and given the resources it needs to function effectively.

13. The Ministers agree that the use of special investigation methods is essential to uncover the activities of criminal groups. These methods require a clear and appropriate legal framework, to prevent violations of the rights of individuals. The Council of Europe could be instructed to define this framework, which would have the effect of creating the climate of confidence needed to develop co-operation between the police forces of member States.

14. Investigation of the activities of criminal groups often needs the help of former members of these groups, who require protection. However, some States may find this protection difficult to provide, in view of its cost and the practical problems of all kinds which it entails. The Ministers take note of the Council of Europe’s recent adoption of Recommendation R(97)13 concerning intimidation of witnesses and the rights of the defence. They consider that international co-operation methods should be developed to permit hearings trough video conferencing at long range and the placement abroad of protected witnesses.

15. The Ministers agree that effective action against organised crime depends on the different services’ capacity for co-ordination, on establishing a coherent system for the circulation of information, and on setting up pluridisciplinary teams of police officers with a specialised knowledge of the techniques used by criminals. They encourage the setting-up of such teams and also the progressive development of a European contact network between them.

16. Urban insecurity contributes in its own way to the growth of organised crime. Partnership between the police and the public is essential here. The Ministers accordingly welcome the Secretary General’s initiative in setting up a special programme to combat urban insecurity in several CIS countries, and encourage development of this programme, which should be extended to other countries.

17. The Ministers regard as useful the practice developed between EU member countries of detaching liaison judges, who are often involved in organised crime investigations. They accordingly ask the Council of Europe to explore the preconditions for extension of the network of liaison judges at pan-European level.

18. The assistance given to police forces by the public is essential in any effective strategy against organised crime and corruption. The Ministers consider that every effort must be made to build confidence between the citizens and their police. In this connection, they welcome the work of the Council of Europe on police ethics and the problems of policing in a democratic society. This work should make it possible, among other things, to define the ethical principles which are inherent to any police force at the service of citizens in States respectful of the rule of law.

19. The Ministers invite the Secretary General to take account of the above conclusions and submit proposals to the Committee of Ministers with a view to defining priorities, programmes and working methods to implement them. In this connection, they also ask the Secretary General to make proposals on flexible and appropriate structures for co-operation between the Ministries of the Interior at pan-European level, which could be entrusted with the duty to conduct the said programmes.

20. The Ministers agree to meet again in two years at the latest to assess the progress made.