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Brussels, 2.12.2015

COM(2015) 624 final



Implementing the European Agenda on Security:

EU action plan against illicit trafficking in and use of firearms and explosives.


1. INTRODUCTION The European Agenda on Security, adopted by the Commission on 28 April 20151 identified the need to strengthen the legal framework on firearms and combat illicit trafficking. It also highlighted the need to restrict access to and the deployment of dangerous substances such as explosives by terrorist networks.

Building on the European Agenda on Security, on 8 October 2015 the Council invited Member States, the Commission, Europol and Interpol to strengthen the use of means of fighting trafficking of firearms2.

The illicit trafficking of firearms is part of the core business of organised crime groups.

Alongside other forms of trafficking, such as drugs, it is a key source of revenue. Firearms leverage other forms of criminality and are used for intimidation, coercion and gang violence.

Beyond organised crime, the heinous terrorist attacks of the past year have shown the imperative to cut off access to firearms and explosives. The attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, as well the attempted attack on a Thalys train, have underlined the fact that terrorist networks are accessing weapons and explosives through organised crime networks and the black market.

In this context, it is crucial that the EU, and especially the Member States, redouble their efforts to tackle the serious threat that the illicit trafficking of firearms and the use of explosives pose to the internal security of the Union.

The Commission adopted on 18 November 2015 a package of legislative measures to strengthen control of firearms in the European Union3. The next step must be to improve operational cooperation at EU level among Member States and with third countries.

This Communication sets out specific actions necessary to implement the European Agenda on Security in the area of trafficking of firearms and explosives, also building upon the Operational Action Plan 20164 under the EU Policy Cycle5.


Despite existing legislation at EU level, firearms, explosives and explosives precursors6 still remain too easily available. Access through illegal channels has been complicated by the availability of weapons on the Internet. A comprehensive approach to support a crackdown on the illicit trafficking and use of firearms and explosives, whilst safeguarding the legal trade of firearms and of legitimate use of chemical substances, is needed.

Building a better intelligence picture In order to enhance and accelerate an effective law enforcement response to this threats, it is essential to build a better intelligence picture on the trafficking of firearms and the use of http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/e-library/documents/basic-documents/docs/eu_agenda_on_security_en.pdf http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/10/08-jha-fighting-trafficking-firearms/ http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6110_en.htm Restricted document.

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/documents-publications/publications/2015/eu-policy-cycle-tackle-organized-crime/ Explosives precursors are chemical substances or mixtures which can be used for the manufacture of explosives.

explosives, and on diversion from legal markets, and to improve existing statistical and analytical tools at EU and national level.

To this end, all relevant stakeholders should take the following further steps:

1 The Commission invites all Member States to set up inter-connected national focal points on firearms to develop expertise and improve analysis and strategic reporting on illicit trafficking in firearms notably through the combined use of both ballistic and criminal intelligence7.

2. As trafficking rings expand beyond Europe, the Commission will engage with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), instrumental in developing internationally harmonised data collection, to regularly map out global firearms trafficking routes to the EU and make it available to all Member States law enforcement authorities.

3 In line with the Operational Action Plan 2016, Europol should reinforce its actions regarding online trafficking8 and the diversion of legal trade, also making use of its Internet Referral Unit9 to possibly monitor illicit sources of firearms, explosives and explosives precursors.

Building upon assessments from stakeholders10, Europol will continue to improve the 4.

collection of information and intelligence related to firearms, including trafficking, seized and stolen firearms and modi operanda to produce timely knowledge products/Early Warning Notifications and an updated threat assessment covering inter alia firearms trade fairs11 and express delivery companies in the EU. Europol will make these documents available to all Member States national law enforcement authorities.

5. The Commission will continue to provide financial assistance, with a focus on projects with a comprehensive scope and a strong data collection impact12.

Preparing for new threats and risks

Organised crime and terrorist networks are known to evolve rapidly, and to make the most of technological innovation13. The Commission will therefore engage with the firearms and chemical industries, relevant national law enforcement agencies and Europol, in order to evaluate the impact of technological advancements on the potential availability of firearms and explosives, and to assess possible security gaps.

This idea was proposed by Member States at the EU Seminar on the use of forensic analysis to enhance strategic and operational analysis for operational and tactical purposes. Birmingham – 11th November 2015.

Relevant research projects concerning the monitoring of Internet have already been launched in the context of the Horizon 2020 programme, http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/ The EU IRU, launched on 1st July 2015 to combat terrorist propaganda and related violent extremist activities on the Internet.

Including at national level, from the private sector and academia.

Information stemming from law enforcement operations points out to the vulnerability of firearm trade fairs to the illicit trafficking of firearms.

The Commission is already funding, through the Internal Security Fund (ISF), two relevant studies namely project EFFECT and project FIRE which aim to improve knowledge of the illicit trafficking of firearms and to facilitate the development of evidence-based policies and actions across Europe. The Commission has also awarded around EUR 60 million to 15 explosives-related projects under the FP7 research programme (http://ec.europa.eu/research/fp7/index_en.cfm), as well as several projects under the Prevention of and fight against crime programme. The Commission will fund further security research projects under Horizon 2020 Secure societies programme and ISF.

3D printing can be used to manufacture firearms and produce essential components to reactivate deactivated firearms.

Non-metallic weapons, such as those made of kevlar and ceramics, present a potential risk requiring close monitoring.

At the same time, the capacity to quickly react to new threats should be reinforced (e.g. 3 D printing). At the external EU border, customs authorities - in cooperation with other law enforcement authorities and based on information gathered from Europol and other data analysis systems - will refine the current customs common risk criteria to improve the targeting of illicit traffic of weapons and firearms.

Enhancing the security of explosives

The current EU Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives14 was adopted by the EU in 200815. Most of the actions have now been implemented through the joint efforts of the Commission, EU Member States, Europol, research institutions and the private sector.

Substantial progress has been made and Member States have in particular highlighted the added value of actions to improve the exchange of information and sharing of good practice, to develop harmonised standards and procedures, and to support explosives-related research and training.

A key achievement of the Action Plan was the adoption of Regulation EU 98/2013 on the marketing and use of explosives precursors16. The Regulation, which entered into force on 2 September 2014, can prevent acts of terrorism by cutting access to the ingredients that are necessary for bomb-making, and by allowing early police investigations on suspicious transactions and other incidents. It is therefore an urgent priority to ensure its full implementation by Member States and to reinforce the controls around precursors as threats

evolve. This will be done through the following key actions:

1. The Commission will promote harmonised measures across the EU, and practices such as: a) cross-border exchange of information between national contact points to ensure that law enforcement of all Member States concerned are aware of suspicious incidents, by using an existing Europol platform such as EBDS (European Bomb Data System) and b) wide and systematic monitoring by law enforcement of sales of precursors on the Internet, as well as steps to further restrict access to them.

2. The Commission will also further develop its engagement with the supply chain of precursors17 by producing and promoting guidance materials which offer advice on good practice to the chemical industry, retail sector, and other relevant sectors.

3. The Commission will accelerate work in order to present the review of the Regulation in 2016 and consider the need for tighter measures, including the inclusion of new threat substances; extending the scope to cover professional users;

requiring end-user declarations for transactions and registration of manufacturers, retailers and importers; restricting and controlling exports; increasing restrictions Council document Doc. 8109/08.

This included 48 actions aimed at, in a comprehensive manner, to address a wide number of aspects linked to ensuring the security of explosives, such as precursors, storage, transport, traceability, detection, research, cross-border information exchange and inter-agency coordination.

This Regulation restricts and enhances control over a number of dangerous chemical substances which are precursors to explosives and can therefore be misused to manufacture home-made explosives.

Operators, from manufacturers to retailers, have an obligation to report suspicious activity to the national contact points in each Member State. They are best placed to identify transactions that fall outside of normal activity in each sector and to observe suspicious behaviour.

on online sales and self-checkout tills; and establishing a role for customs authorities18.

Proper vetting of personnel is essential to preventing diversion, misuse, or illicit access to dangerous chemicals19. Across EU Member States, there are no common minimum vetting standards and procedures for the recruitment and training of personnel engaged in the supply chain of explosives and in other security-sensitive sectors20 and the Commission will consider whether EU action is needed.

Specific actions:

 Improve existing statistical and analysis tools and developing assessments at national level on movements of firearms and their availability, and prioritise exchange at EU level;

 Europol to produce EU-wide analytical products and given the strong links with terrorism, to enhance EU IRU's monitoring role;

 Mapping out global firearms trafficking routes to the EU by UNODC;

 Engage with partners to improve knowledge on the illicit trafficking of firearms covering inter alia online trafficking and the diversion of legal trade;

 Improve the access to all EU-wide and national analytical products to all law MS enforcement authorities;

 Continue to provide financial assistance with a focus on projects with a comprehensive scope and a strong data collection impact  Assess risks stemming from technological innovation, such as 3D printing;

 Enhance the security of explosives, by fully implementing the Regulation on Explosives Precursors and bringing forward to 2016 the revision of the Precursors Regulation;

 Assess the need to harmonise vetting standards and procedures at EU level.


The European Agenda on Security highlighted the urgent need to enhance operational cooperation among the relevant authorities of Member States. It is essential to use the expertise available and to provide proper training to law enforcement and other relevant agencies and experts in Member States. Law enforcement and expert networks should be used to their full potential in this context21.

Increasing cross-border operational cooperation

The Operational Action Plan (OAP) on firearms22 already includes the bulk of these actions.

They concern inter alia joint action days, and intelligence-led operations against traffickers The review will be done in consultation with the Standing Committee on Precursors expert group, http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/index.cfm?do=groupDetail.groupDetail&groupID=3245 This concern was already laid out in the Commission's 2014 Communication on a new approach to the detection and mitigation of CBRN-E risks, COM(2014) 247 final.

This was already foreseen in the 2008 Action Plan.

The Commission has streamlined the financial assistance to operational actions. Under the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) Delegation Agreement, EUR 7 million were transferred to Europol of which about EUR 350 000 were earmarked so as to ensure the implementation of the Operational Action Plan (OAP) on firearms in spring 2015. Privileged funding to the OAP on firearms will be provided by Europol in 2016.

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