Report: EU governments slow on piracy


BRUSSELS -- Most EU governments have yet to adopt the laws aimed at confiscating the proceeds of piracy, despite promising to do so almost three years ago.

The European Commission on Tuesday published a report naming the EU countries that have dithered in taking measures to fight organized crime.

Only 10 of the EU's 27 members have implemented the measures -- and among those who have not are big countries including Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy.

The measures were agreed by EU ministers in February 2005 in a bid to halt the effectiveness of organized crime, which has become increasingly involved in the black market for pirate movies and music. The aim is to attack the resources of organized crime networks by stripping them of their financial gains, the very foundation of their success.

However, it is a measure agreed outside the EU's usual decision-making mechanisms as it concerns the sensitive sector of justice and home affairs. This means that though it is binding on all EU members, it is harder for the commission to take action against the governments for dragging their heels.

Nonetheless, commission vice president Franco Frattini appealed to capitals to make good on their pledges.

"I am disappointed that so many member states have yet to take steps to empower their law enforcement agencies to confiscate property acquired by offenders as a result of criminal activities," Frattini said. "We must fight organized crime by starving it of its funding and by confiscating the fruits of its unlawful activities. Confiscating its proceeds is one way of stamping it out. In this way, criminals will be deprived of a powerful means of arbitrarily undermining the rule of law."

EU governments are also committed to other international efforts to cut off finance for criminal gangs, including the 1990 Council of Europe Convention on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime and the 2000 United Nations Convention against trans-national organized crime.

The 2005 EU law contains provisions for governments to boost the ability of law enforcement services to identify, freeze and confiscate criminal proceeds. It also grants them greater use of investigative techniques to trace money trails associated with crime.