The EU must tackle organised crime and human trafficking "head-on", according to the bloc's Commissioner responsible for the European way of life.
Margaritis Schinas told Euronews that the ever-growing problem of criminal organisations on the continent can no longer be ignored and that it is a war Europe is ready to win.
"There is no doubt that illegal drugs and human trafficking are two areas that are particularly worrying, but not the only ones. The nine major criminal activities in Europe generate about €140bn in profits, around 1% of the Union's GDP. So, this is something we cannot neglect, we cannot ignore, we have to face it head-on," the Commissioner said.
The Commission unveiled a new strategy this week to combat organised crime and human trafficking, including a proposal to start a cooperation agreement with Interpol that would enforce information sharing between EU member states and the international police organisation.
The new plans are designed to cover the period from 2021 to 2025 and aim to disrupt the business models and structures of criminal organisations across Europe.
As well as targeting human traffickers, Brussels wants to provide support for its victims, through the use of shelters and specialised facilities.
According to the Commission, there were more than 14,000 victims of human trafficking reported in Europe during 2017 and 2018, including 50% of EU nationals.
72% of all victims were women and girls, of which 92% were trafficked for sexual exploitation.
The bloc's plans come as Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, released its own report Monday saying the continent is at a "breaking point" in relation to gang activity, fuelled in large part by the pandemic.