The European Parliament should tackle the problems posed by mafias across Europe by setting up an ad hoc committee to investigate their connection with “financial, entrepreneurial and political systems,” according to an appeal launched by Rosario Crocetta, a newly-elected Italian MEP who has been living under strict police protection since 2002 due to his activities against the Sicilian mafia.
In a letter to Parliament President Jerzy Buzek circulated among MEPs, Crocetta underlined that the mafia is no longer a local issue but a European problem, due to the widespread penetration of old mafias across the continent and the recent growth of new ones (EURACTIV 15/04/08 and EURACTIV 28/10/08).
“Such a situation has consequences on citizens’ personal rights and freedom” since “mafias kill, influence and even control election votes,” Crocetta said.
He directly experienced the mafia’s influence over electoral processes during his first campaign as mayor of the Sicilian city of Gela.
Crocetta lost local elections in 2002 by a few dozen votes, but in 2003 he eventually became mayor of Gela thanks to the intervention of Italian justice, which exposed pressure on election officers from a local mafia boss who was attempting to modify the outcome of the popular vote. He was overwhelmingly re-elected in the following elections in 2007.
In his letter, Crocetta stressed the negative impact of mafias on the European economy. “Through their access to almost unlimited financial resources, [mafia-backed enterprises] become real competitors of legal companies,” he wrote.
Need for European approach
Stressing the need for a European approach, he pointed out that “often the money earned by illegal trafficking is laundered and cleaned through entrepreneurial and financial activities carried out in areas where normally there is no presence of mafias”.
As a result of his outspoken criticism of the mafia, Crocetta has been living under tight security surveillance for years. In 2008, a plot to kill him was uncovered by the Italian police. Since then, he has enjoyed protection similar to that accorded to the state’s highest representatives.
His plan to set up a dedicated committee on mafias is likely to find support from his party, the Socialists and Democrats. He has already informally discussed the issue with the president of the group, Martin Schulz.
However, support from the Conservatives, the main party in the assembly, is crucial. A spokesperson for Joseph Daul, the head of the group, told EURACTIV that no contacts had yet been established on the issue.
“We are open to discuss it,” he said.
The European Parliament can set up a temporary or ad hoc committee with a simple majority of its members and following political agreement between the presidents of the main political groups. According to the Parliament's revised rules of procedure, adopted in March 2009, a temporary committee can have a mandate of 12 months maximum, potentially renewable.
In the last legislature, the Parliament set up a temporary committee to investigate allegations that the CIA used European countries for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners, a move which attracted strong media attention and raised public awareness about the issue (EURACTIV 15/12/05). A report was adopted two years later confirming most of the allegations (EURACTIV 24/01/07).
The 2009-2014 Parliament has already reached a political agreement to establish a temporary committee on the financial crisis in the autumn.
The assembly can also set up a committee of inquiry with the support of one quarter of its members to investigate alleged contraventions of Community law. One example is the committee of inquiry on alleged violations of EU rules in relation to the outbreak of mad cow disease, set up by the Parliament in 1996.