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Fight against organised crime: offences linked to participation in a criminal organisation

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Fight against organised crime: offences linked to participation in a criminal organisation

Organised crime is a threat to European citizens, businesses, state institutions and the economy as a whole. Criminals operate easily across borders, which creates a need for European-level action.


Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA of 24 October 2008 on the fight against organised crime.


Since the 1990s, the European Union (EU) has taken steps to make the fight against organised crime more effective. In 2008, the Council adopted Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA on the fight against organised crime. This criminalised conduct linked to participation in a criminal organisation. It seeks to harmonise EU countries’ laws on the criminalisation of offences linked to participation in a criminal organisation and lays down penalties for these offences.


There are two types of conduct, of which Member States must recognise at least one as an offence:

  • A: active participation in an organisation’s criminal activities, with the knowledge of its aim or of its intention to commit crimes;
  • B: an agreement on the perpetration of crimes without necessarily taking part in committing them.


Member States must lay down penalties corresponding to the offences mentioned above.

  • For option A, the minimum requirement is at least 2 years' imprisonment for the maximum level of penalty.
  • For option B, the minimum requirement is a maximum term of imprisonment equivalent to that of the planned activities or at least 2 years' imprisonment for the maximum level of penalty.

Penalties may be reduced in specific circumstances, such as the offender renouncing the criminal activity or assisting by identifying and bringing to justice other offenders.

On the basis of the framework decision, EU countries must introduce rules aiming at holding liable legal persons (such as companies) for the above offences when committed on their behalf by a person who has a leading role in the legal person.

The penalties for legal persons must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. These should include fines and may also include the following:

  • ending the right to public aid;
  • temporarily or permanently prohibiting commercial activities and the establishments used for the offences;
  • placing under judicial supervision;
  • judicial winding-up.

Jurisdiction and coordination of prosecution

A Member State’s jurisdiction must extend to the offences linked to participation in a criminal organisation when committed on its territory, in whole or in part, by their national or on behalf of a legal person set up on the territory of this Member State.

If the offence falls within the jurisdiction of several countries, they must collaborate, for example via Eurojust, to decide on the prosecuting Member State and to centralise the proceedings. Special account must be taken of where the offence was carried out, the nationality or place of residence of the offender, the country of origin of the victim and the territory where the offender was found.


  • 1997: EU adopts first action plan to combat organised crime;
  • 1998: EU adopts Joint Action 98/733/JHA on participation in a criminal organisation;
  • 2000: UN General Assembly adopts the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime - the first global legal instrument for combating transnational organised crime (entered into force in 2003);
  • 2002: EU adopts Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism (defines a terrorist group on the basis of the definition of criminal organisation in Joint Action 1998/733/JHA);
  • 2004: Commission communication recognises need to improve measures used to combat organised crime; EU accedes to UN Convention;
  • 2008: EU adopts Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA repealing Joint Action 98/733/JHA.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA



OJ L 300 of 11.11.2008


United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols Thereto

Last updated: 01.07.2014