Justice and home affairs
Push to tighten counterfeit controls
By Anca Gurzu | Wednesday 11 July 2012
The European Commission will present a legislative proposal by the end of the year aimed at strengthening cooperation and increasing information exchange between member states and EU agencies in the fight against counterfeit goods. The move is set to reflect new general trends in the counterfeiting business and organised crime rings that call for closer collaboration between officials. If approved, the proposal would significantly improve the way member states and the EU’s law enforcement agency (Europol), the judicial cooperation unit (Eurojust) and the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) share information, said Thierry Henne, an investigator at OLAF’s tobacco and counterfeit goods section. He made these comments on 11 July, during a session of the European Parliament’s Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering (CRIM).
The legislative proposal would seek to amend Council Regulation (EC) 515/97, which provides the legal basis for specific activities between member states and the Commission, such as investigation and coordination, and ensures the correct application of the law on customs and agricultural matters. In essence, the regulation, already amended in 2008, sets up a customs information system in the form of a common computer network with a central database that allows for the dissemination of data quickly between the different parties.
Europoliticsthe future amendment will have three main goals: it would seek to give the Commission direct access to the import-export database of member states, something it currently can obtain only by request; it would seek access to the container shipping line database, which provides information about private companies’ transport; and, lastly, it would seek to provide Eurojust and Europol access to member states’ data on seizures. Once the Commission presents its proposal, it would have to be debated and voted upon in both the Council and Parliament.
Meanwhile, new trends and practices are emerging in the counterfeiting business. By way of example, Chris Vansteenkiste, from Europol’s Financial and Property Crime Unit, said that counterfeiters no longer confine their activities to luxury goods, but increasingly are exploiting low-cost consumer goods, such as foodstuff, pens or batteries. Similarly, there is a shift from counterfeit generic drugs to life-saving drugs, such as for leukemia, Vansteenkiste said.
Smuggling of counterfeit pesticides is also on the rise. These damage the soil and can also contain harmful and easily flammable substances that are banned in the EU. Counterfeit alcohol arriving from the Emirates is another recent cause for concern, Henne said.