Delivering security to citizens in a turbulent world

All European citizens want to feel secure from the growing threats of the modern world; it will be my role to deliver this security, says Ylva Johansson

Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affair | Photo credit: European Commission Audiovisual

By Ylva Johansson

06 May 2020

People seek security for themselves and for their children. It’s true in normal times and it’s particularly true in these times of the Coronacrisis. Security starts with the day-to-day fight against crime and terrorism by Europol and national law enforcement bodies, which are now cracking down on an epidemic of Coronavirus-related crime.

Recent achievements include foiling a €15 million face mask scam and the arrest of a dark web child sex abuser. We must always be one step ahead of the criminals and terrorists, who are constantly changing their methods. In the coming years, we will present many concrete proposals and actions for the internal security of the EU, for which I am responsible as Commissioner for Home Affairs. We will target organised crime, possibly the single largest threat to the security of our citizens.


Right now, there are more than 5,000 criminal groups under investigation in Europe, most of which are active in several Member States. We will help our police forces to improve cross-border cooperation and sharing of information related to criminal investigations, such as DNA or fingerprints. This is essential, with organised crime groups operating across EU borders.

We will fight organised crime by working with civil society to help Member States tackle corruption – which is destroying trust, undermining democratic institutions and allowing criminals to infiltrate the legal economy. We will develop policies to counter the drug trade, which kills people – there were 8,000 deaths due to overdosing in 2019 alone – and bankrolls organised crime.

We will tackle illegal firearms, used to commit crimes. There are 35 million illegal guns in Europe. We will adopt a new action plan on firearms trafficking and look into modernising the rules on the import and export of guns. Crime must not pay. Organised crime groups make an estimated €110 billion in profits every year – yet only one percent of these are confiscated. We will assess possibilities of improving confiscation and asset recovery. In addition, we will step up the fight against human trafficking – a modern form of slavery and a source of income for criminals.

"We must always be one step ahead of the criminals and terrorists, who are constantly changing their methods"

As well as organised crime, terrorism remains a significant threat. In 2018, Member States reported over 1,000 arrests and 129 attacks foiled, failed and completed, both by Islamist extremists and increasingly by far-right terrorists. Coronavirus is not reducing terrorist activities. To counter terrorism, we will take further action to prevent and counter radicalisation and to protect public spaces and critical infrastructure, including from emerging threats such as unmanned drones.

We will consider measures to deal with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats and to restrict access to dangerous chemicals. Criminals and terrorists are going online. We must upgrade our security policies for the digital age. Cyberattacks and disinformation pose a constant threat, even more so due to the Coronacrisis.

Spending more time behind their screens, people in lockdown are more vulnerable to online scams, bogus medicine sales and terrorist content. We must finalise our pending proposals, including concluding negotiations on online terrorist content, to stop them from spreading their poison. Around 85 percent of criminal investigations rely on electronic evidence – we need to update our rulebook to match this new digital reality.

There is also the vile crime of child sexual abuse. According to Internet Watch, Europe became global leader in hosting child sexual abuse imagery in 2019. The virus is making things worse; with perpetrators and home-schooled children constantly online, Europol is reporting a significant increase in online child sexual exploitation. I am now preparing an EU strategy to fight this terrible crime.

Crime and terrorism ignore national borders. Our European and national law enforcement bodies must work seamlessly together. That means implementing existing decisions on interoperability - efficient data exchange is essential in catching cross-border criminals. I am closely following progress on the implementation of our EU information systems architecture.

"Europe’s internal security does not end at our borders, but depends on the security of our neighbours, friends and partners"

We will boost Europol’s mandate so it can exchange data directly with private parties; with banks for financial crimes and with internet companies for terrorist content and online child sexual abuse. Europe’s internal security does not end at our borders, but depends on the security of our neighbours, friends and partners. We will work with countries in the Western Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East, as well as with close friends like Canada and the US.

Above all, we will let our values guide us. We will continuously strive for the need for security that is high on people’s agenda and fully respects fundamental rights. I look forward to working with the Parliament on these proposals. As the elected institution, closest to the people, I know we share a common goal: Safety for all in Europe.

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