The terminology of the ‘administrative approach’ covers many different definitions, approaches and practices all over the EU. This may sometimes lead to confusion as to what this approach actually consists of. On 8 November 2019, ENAA agreed on a short, straightforward and easy to translate definition of the administrative approach that is based on the Council Conclusion of 2016 definition:
“An administrative approach to serious and organised crime is a complementary way to prevent and tackle the misuse of the legal infrastructure through multi-agency cooperation by sharing information and taking actions in order to set up barriers.”
Five pillars were distilled from the definition in order to clarify to practitioners what administrative approach initiatives exactly consist of. It is not necessary to have all five pillars present in a concrete initiative, but it is a good indicator for the successful application of the administrative approach.
- Prevent and tackle the misuse of the legal infrastructure by serious and organised crime
Both national and local administrations must be equipped with tools to tackle organised crime groups and serious and organised crime as they both play a major role. Authorities thus have a particular interest in preventing criminals from either using the economic and legal infrastructure to acquire a legal income or from misusing businesses to facilitate crimes and directing their criminal proceeds towards this purpose. There are also administrative measures that focus on public nuisance, however within the framework of ENAA we use the administrative approach to tackle serious and organised crime.
The administrative approach involves making use of administrative and regulatory mechanisms, and taking a multidisciplinary
approach by involving a wide range of actors to complement traditional criminal justice measures with to the goal of tackling organised crime. An administrative approach applied in coordination with the traditional instruments of criminal law is a
more powerful tool then when implemented merely as an add-on. Even more, administrative measures on their own will
not be able to tackle organised crime groups. Therefore, the administrative approach must be seen as complementary to the traditional approaches that are tackling organised crime.
- Multi-agency cooperation
Besides legal obstacles, many Member States are unfortunately confronted with problems related to organisational structures. Often, agencies have their own back-office, which focuses on the protection of their own interests, based on mutually exclusive areas of responsibility, control and political accountability. This can cause problems for an effective administrative approach. The administrative approach is often referred to as ‘working apart together’ meaning that different authorities and administrations tackle serious and organised crime within their merits. Therefore, the administrative approach depends for its success on cooperation with other partners in the security field, such as the police, the public prosecution service and tax authorities.
- Sharing of information
The key of ‘working apart together’ is information exchange between administrative, fiscal and law enforcement agencies within a single state or region. For local authorities, access to information and open sources is fundamental to take substantiated decisions. Therefore, legal grounds are needed for this access and for the exchange of information
between relevant stakeholders. Judicial data needs to be accessible for the local authorities to confirm suspected links between
organised crime groups, entrepreneurs, companies and citizens. The local administration is highly dependent on information from the public prosecutor and the police. Unfortunately, in many Member States, the sharing of information is currently limited to one direction from local authorities to the other partners and not the other way. This is problematic and mainly caused by barriers in the law.
- Take actions to set up barriers
Public administrations, particularly at local level, have the power within their responsibilities to take actions to frustrate and
hinder organised crime groups. The idea of the administrative approach is to equip the local administrations with the necessary tools (e.g. revoking licenses on health grounds) to avoid the legal infrastructure being used by criminals. They can find means of action against the criminal phenomena as well as the organised crime groups. Authorities can identify areas where the underworld ‘touches’ legitimate society. Then, they can coordinate interventions in these areas with different partners or administrative tools supplementing actions under criminal law to tackle serious and organised crime.