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Commissioner Johansson's speech at the EU versus crime conference on security

Happy Birthday Europol! Congratulations on your 25th anniversary. There is no better way to celebrate than to meet and discuss keeping Europe safe.

You have probably recognised that when people talk about security nowadays, they often talk about defence, foreign policy, about external security. And that’s for a very good reason. Putin’s Russia is a threat to international peace and stability. A threat to the European Union and democracy.  

Because of the danger on the outside, we need security on the inside. Russia is also a threat towards our internal security. There are concerning reports of Russian sabotage all across Europe. Last week Polish Prime Minister Tusk announced arrests for beatings, arson and suspected arson linked to Russia. In April, the German Federal Prosecutor reported arrests of members of a pro-Russian terrorist group planning arson and explosive attacks. The Czech Foreign ministry reported cyber-attacks by a Russian state-controlled actor. And Dutch intelligence warns of suspicious mapping of North Sea wind turbines and preparations for sabotage.

It’s good news that the Member States and Commission last year stress tested the resilience of the energy sector against attacks. But as the war against Ukraine continues, countering sabotage should be high on our agenda. And the agenda of the next Commission.

Counter espionage is the responsibility of Member States intelligence services. But countering sabotage is also police business. Police are first on the scene. When there’s a fire, when there’s vandalism, when there’s violence.

Russia uses proxies to carry out missions – extremist groups, criminals. As Commissioner I have from day one built ties with the intelligence community. And today I must say we have a very strong cooperation.  Even though intelligence is formally a national competence. We understand each other’s needs better and how to help each other better. The next Commission must continue to foster this cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence.


Hostile state actors are not the only ones to threaten our society. Far-right violent extremists, often inspired by Russia, directly challenge democracy. Last week the court case started against the alleged plotters of a far-right coup in Germany. Terror suspects are getting younger and younger. Going down internet rabbit holes. Making up a “do it yourself ideology”.

And after the 7 October attacks and the war in Gaza: We’ve seen: A teacher killed in France. Two Swedish football fans killed here in Brussels. Reports of Hamas plotting attacks in Europe. Jihadi terrorism is still the biggest threat. With no sign of decreasing. I’m especially concerned about ISKP, a regional branch of Islamic State, capable of carrying out big attacks abroad.

We have done a lot to prepare ourselves against the terrorist threat. I put forward the first EU counter terrorism agenda in 15 years. And Member States are increasingly using the Terrorist Content Online regulation to take down terrorist propaganda. Issuing so far more than 550 removal orders to take down terrorist content within the hour. 

We need to counter terrorism with the strong arm of the law. And the open arms of prevention. That’s why we’re continuing our important work against radicalisation. Next month we are setting up the EU knowledge hub to prevent radicalisation. Thanks to this preventive work attacks are not made. Lives are not lost. And victims are supported and remembered. 

Organised crime is as big a threat as terrorism. And we must fight it with the same dedication. Organised crime is not only a threat to life and security but also to democracy and society. Europol’s recent mapping of 821 most threatening criminal networks shows they are very resilient. One third of the criminal networks have been there for more than ten years. Nearly 90 per cent of them have infiltrated the legal economy. Running businesses, investing in real estate. 70 per cent of these most threatening criminal networks use corruption.

But it’s not corruption or violence. Because 70 per cent also use violence. Their brutality only matches their impunity. Like the criminals who killed two prison guards during an escape in France two weeks ago. Organised criminals in Ecuador directly attack democratic institutions with violence and murder. And we follow that, and we are afraid. But this is happening here too. Journalists, lawyers, politicians threatened or murdered by criminals. In the European Union. 


I made it my mission to put the fight against organised crime on the top of the European agenda. And as part of my strategy against organised crime I put in place a new EU law on asset recovery. To take away the fast cars, big houses and piles of cash from the criminals.

I proposed new anti-corruption rules. To criminalise all forms of corruption in all Member States. And I call on Member States to support strict anti-corruption rules. To fight organised crime, we need to work much more closely together. In the European Union and beyond. We need closer cooperation also with partner countries globally. Because it takes a network to fight a network.

I was the first ever EU Home Affairs commissioner to travel to Latin America. To Ecuador. To Colombia. I did that last year. One concrete result of this trip: a security assessment of the Port of Guayaquil. Or the ports of Guayaquil. There are several. We’re working on agreements with five Latin American countries so Europol can exchange the personal data needed to fight crime and have common investigations. We already have this in place with Colombia. But that’s the only Latin American country so far with this status agreement that allows the good cooperation.  

Last October I presented a roadmap against drugs trafficking and organised crime. And in January, we launched the European Ports Alliance, to keep criminals and drugs out of our harbours. We are closing the net. I am proud to tell you today that from 14 ports at the launch in January, we have now 31 ports as members of the alliance. And the alliance is becoming operational. Custom officials visiting each other’s ports, sharing best practices. And soon we’ll be discussing operational measures against criminal infiltration in the ports.

And to counter the persistent threat of drugs trafficking I can announce today I will establish the European Commission coordinator for the Fight Against Drug trafficking. To help effectively implement our policies.

And also, a word on a crime that threatens the most vulnerable in society. Child sexual abuse. Another crime that spans continents. With perpetrators in Europe paying to watch rapes of children on the other side of the world. And it’s spiralling out of control.


In 2009, 750,000 predators were online at any given moment. Now, it’s 2.5 million – predators online at any given moment. And we leave our children alone up there. Every two seconds a video or picture of a raped child is uploaded to the internet. Often of rapes of very young children. Severe sexual violence towards babies and toddlers. I should say that we are failing our children today. This crime questions us as a society. What kind of society are we, if we allow this to happen, and get worse?

It’s time for the Internet companies to take responsibility. That’s why it’s essential to put in place permanent, comprehensive legislation. To prevent the EU from becoming a safe haven for perpetrators.

Organised crime, terrorism and child sexual abuse. These threats undermine the fabric of society, and they are global. I have just discussed the specific measures I put forward to deal with these specific threats. But the bedrock of our security in Europe is police cooperation and information exchange. Key to address all these threats.

And Europol is at the heart of European police cooperation. Just a few recent examples reported this month. Europol supported Italian and Turkish police to dismantle a criminal organisation involved in murders across Europe. Supported Spain and the Guardia Civil to dismantle a cocaine laboratory and make 20 arrests. Supported police to rescue 4 children from abuse.

I made sure Europol can do an even better job with a new mandate, with more resources, more staff, more powers to fight crime – balanced by democratic oversight. And we improved police cooperation. For example, by modernising automated data exchange – the Prüm network. Made it faster and better.

And all of these threats I discussed today are not only global, but they are digital. Some are specific digital threats like disinformation and cyber-attacks. But all crimes are nowadays in some way digital. Criminals and terrorists use the Internet to commit their crimes, they leave traces in the digital world. This makes access to data and data exchange essential for police work. E-evidence rules are now in place. For quick access to cross-border evidence. 


But big parts of the digital world have become in practice a no-go area for police. Unable to access even with a lawful warrant. Because evidence disappears so quickly. Data is not stored. Or is not accessible.

In the next mandate it’s necessary to find solutions for lawful access to data. And generative AI is also going to be such a challenge. The potential for crime is enormous. In Hong Kong, criminals scammed a financial worker into paying 25 million dollars. He took part in a video conference. And all the other participants were deepfakes. Including his colleagues and the chief financial officer.

Deepfakes can make the flood of disinformation much, much worse. And AI is already being used to make child sexual abuse material. By training the AI on pictures and videos of real rapes of real children. While technology is running, we are walking.

As law makers and law enforcers we are already falling behind. We need to catch up. We need to start running. But still, I can say that I am proud. Even if the world has become a much more dangerous place. I think I can say that we made Europe a little bit safer. For the future. It will be your job, all of you here today, to keep Europe safe in this dangerous world.

I am proud of what we have achieved. And I am proud of Europol, of what you have achieved. Well respected, well trusted, and this is well deserved. And I am very proud of Catherine, Catherine De Bolle, my Executive Director. We have gone through a lot together, you and I Catherine. You have made Europol what it is today. And I could not have achieved what I have done as Commissioner in security during this mandate without your dedicated work and your leadership. All of you should be proud.

I want to end like I started, by saying: Happy Birthday Europol! 25 years old. An important age if you’re a person. You’re all grown up. But you have still your whole life l ahead of you. And so, it is with Europol. In 25 years, Europol has become the foundation of EU police cooperation. But you have a great future still ahead of you.


Find out more

Press Release

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation

Internal security policies


Link:, dated May 28, 2024 11:54 am

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