The Prosecutors General and Directors of Public Prosecutions of EU Member States have extensively discussed how to enhance the role of judicial authorities in joint operations against major organised crime via the EMPACT platform. This would mean involving public prosecutors at an earlier stage in the planning and coordination of operational actions. During their 17th Consultative Forum, held on the 5th and 6th of October at Eurojust, they were also given an update on the state of play of the judicial response to the war in Ukraine and debated the challenges of protecting the environment through criminal law.
The Forum highlighted the necessity to improve awareness of EMPACT among judicial authorities. The 17th Consultative Forum of Prosecutors General and Directors of Public Prosecutions of EU Member States was organised together with the Swedish and Spanish authorities, in view of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union of both countries in 2023.
Mr Thomas Häggström, Director of Public Prosecution of Sweden, stated:
EMPACT has been operational for more than a decade and has proven to be a highly effective collaborative platform for law enforcement agencies. It is now time for the prosecution authorities in the Member States to also step forward and further explore the possibilities for joint action against serious and organised crime through the platform.
Prosecutor General of the Kingdom of Spain, Mr Álvaro García Ortiz, pointed out:
Europe must remain an area of freedom, democracy and rule of law for all Europeans, including Ukrainians. This 17th meeting of the Consultative Forum has allowed us to discuss the initiatives put in place to support ongoing investigation and prosecutions aiming to bring to justice those responsible for the atrocities committed in the war against Ukraine.
Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran said:
In an ever-closer European Union, delivering justice is a collective effort. Bringing together the Member States’ Prosecutors General and Directors of Public Prosecutions Services to discuss the judicial response to the war in Ukraine, the fight against organised crime and better protecting our environment through criminal law is, therefore, an essential part of what we need to do. In 2022 alone, Eurojust supported 11 544 cross-border investigations, and we look forward to servicing the Member States’ judicial authorities even more this year.
The European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) is a security initiative driven by EU Member States and operates in four-year cycles. For each cycle, Operational Action Plans (OAPs) are prepared to combat major crime in specific areas. Higher and earlier involvement of the judiciary in the entire process and planning will enable a more effective and coordinated approach to tackling major organised crime. This would maximise investigations into serious and complex crimes, such as drug trafficking, money laundering and migrant smuggling.
For the current cycle, from 2022 to 2025, ten priority areas for OAPs have been identified for major types of crime, ranging from migrant smuggling, drug trafficking and environmental crime to cyberattacks and firearms trafficking. With the next cycle due to start in 2026 and new OAPs to be prepared, the Consultative Forum wants to increase the role of judicial authorities from the beginning of the following period.
Practical examples of current strategies were presented and cases were highlighted, where the early involvement of the judicial authorities and Eurojust has led to concrete benefits. This was, for instance, the case with the successful dismantling of encrypted criminal communications using the EncroChat tool. In order to raise awareness of the possibilities the platform offers, Eurojust in 2021 launched the communication campaign for judicial authorities ‘Prosecuting with EMPACT’.
Environmental protection is one of the priorities of the Spanish EU Presidency in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. In view of the revision of the current EU Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law, dating from 2008, the Prosecutors General discussed ways to enhance actions to fight environmental crime. This can be done, for instance, through specialising judges and prosecutors and setting up dedicated units in the public prosecution services.
In the follow-up to last year’s Consultative Forum, an update was given on the state of play of EU-wide legislative initiatives regarding the war in Ukraine and the judicial responses to fighting impunity. This included a presentation on the role of the Agency related to the war in Ukraine and the Core International Crimes Evidence Database (CICED).
The CICED has been set up by Eurojust, in order to preserve, store and analyse evidence of core international crimes, such as war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The discussion also focused on the start of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine (ICPA), which started on 3 July of this year and is hosted at Eurojust.