University of Exeter

Politics Department

Organised criminal activity in Europe, it is widely accepted, has grown enormously in the last decade. The last ten years have witnessed great changes in the political makeup of Europe: the collapse of Communism in 1989 and the deepening and widening of the European Union, through  the establishment of the Treaties, have all  been factors in the contribution to the growth of organised crime.

These factors have led to organised crime in Europe to become highly transnational in character, operating cross-border criminal activities with ease, constituting a problem that touches all societies throughout Europe. It has often been said that criminals might live in one country, commit their crimes in another and sell their illicit goods in another third country. Also, as will be discussed later, it has been suggested that organised criminal groups in one country are forging links with groups in other countries, and so extending their operations and broadening their markets. (Tupman, 1999).

Although organised crime is certainly not a new phenomena it has become, in recent years, increasingly more widespread and highly sophisticated, taking advantage of the advances in technology, particularly in the field of communications. It has also been quick to adapt and exploit the changing political and economic mechanisms within Europe. This is particularly the case with the transition economies of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) in Eastern Europe. The dramatic changes that followed the overnight 'velvet revolution' in 1989 have been a mixed blessing and double edged sword, and the resultant political and economic turmoil has left many CIS countries extremely vulnerable to organised crime.

This website will seek to establish and define what organised crime is and who the organised criminals are. Do organised criminals match the preconceptions that we have, perhaps, gained from American gangster films, i.e. violent neurotics, who rely only on coercion and terror to further and protect their business interests? Or are they highly intelligent, educated and skilful entrepreneurs who are much more subtle in the way they conduct their operations?

It will also discuss the kinds of groups now operating in Europe and how they interact in order to make themselves more efficient at avoiding the security mechanisms in Europe. The areas that they operate in will also be discussed to show how diverse their 'business' operations are, giving some foundation to the analogy of organised crime being like an octopus, having a tentacle in every area and sphere of life.

What are both the EU and the Member States doing to combat the apparent threat of organised crime? What are the implications for European security and democracy? Some commentators have suggested that organised criminal groups represent such a big problem that they believe that there is some foundation to the concept of them being 'governments in waiting.' Although others believe the idea of organised crime as an uncontrollable monster about to engulf, undermine and ultimately destroy democracy in Europe is an exaggeration, and believe there is an agenda behind the 'talking up' of the problem.

All these issues, and others, will be explored in some depth within this Web site, and will lead to conclusions as to the possible extent and size of the organised crime problem in Europe, and the measures needed to be taken in order to contain it and limit its powers.

The Politics of Policing Transnational Crime in the European Union

POL 3030

Organised Crime in Europe

Organised Crime in Europe Homepage | Defining Organised Crime | Why has Organised Crime Increased? | Organised Criminal Activities | The EU's Response To Organised Crime Societal Implications & the Agenda? | Conclusion | Directory of Related Links | Bibliography