The inaugural meeting of the European Parliament's new "mafia" committee took place on 17 April, bringing to fruition a longtime push by Italian MEP Rosario Crocetta, who has been under police protection since 2002 due to his activities against Sicilian organised crime.
Sonia Alfano, a Liberal MEP from Italy, was elected chair of the Parliament's special committee on organised crime, corruption and money laundering during the body's first meeting in Strasbourg.
Committee members also elected four vice-chairs and nominated another Italian MEP, Salvatore Iacolino (European People's Party), as rapporteur.
The committee elected as vice-chairs Crocetta (Socialists & Democrats, Italy), Rui Tavares (Greens/EFA, Portugal), Timothy Kirkhope (European Conservatives and Reformist, UK) and Søren Bo Sondergaard (European United Left/Nordic Green Left, Denmark).
The Strasbourg meeting brings to fruition an initiative by Crocetta. 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.
Since his election as MEP in 2009, Crocetta has been pushing for an EU-wide response to mafia proliferation, which he sees no longer as a local issue, but a European problem.
After the meeting, Alfano said the special committee would make sure to deliver in the shortest time possible a comprehensive action plan to address organised crime and its businesses anywhere in the EU.
"We shall also take a 'zero-tolerance' approach to those who have been aiding and abetting organised crime," she said.
The committee, within its one-year mandate, will evaluate the extent of organised crime's impact on the EU economy and society and recommend legislative and other measures to enable the EU to respond to these threats at international, European and national levels.
Members will have the power to make on-site visits, hold hearings with EU and national institutions from all over the world. It can also seek testimony from representatives of business, civil society and victims’ organisations as well as judges and other law enforcement officials.