Coordinating police forces of many nations to provide mutual assistance and to develop institutions for prevention and suppression of international crime.
Operational cooperation between the police, customs and other specialised law enforcement services in relation to the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences. The collection, storage, processing, analysis and exchange of relevant information, including information on suspicious financial transactions. Cooperation and joint initiatives in training, the exchange of liaison officers, secondments, the use of equipment, and forensic research. The common evaluation of particular investigative techniques in relation to the detection of serious forms of organised crime.
The first formal organization began in Vienna during the post-World War I era. Often popularly misconceived as a "world police" with arresting powers, Interpol has carefully defined its international role as assistance to national police bodies and has forbidden any political, military, religious or racial functions. No communist nations participate except Yugoslavia.
The idea of a European Police Office was first raised at the Luxembourg European Council on 28 and 29 June 1991. The plan then was to set up a new body which would provide a structure for developing police cooperation between Member States in preventing and combating serious forms of international organised crime, including terrorism and drug trafficking. The convention establishing Europol was signed in July 1995 and entered into force on 1 October 1998. In order to lose no time in giving practical shape to the police cooperation defined in Title VI of the Treaty on European Union, a temporary Europol Drugs Unit was set up in 1995. The prime objective of this Unit was to combat drug trafficking and associated money laundering. Its terms of reference were subsequently extended to cover measures to combat trafficking in radioactive and nuclear substances, clandestine immigration networks, vehicle trafficking and money laundering associated with these criminal activities; the fight against trade in human beings was also added later. The European Police Office, which took over the activities of the Europol Drugs Unit, became operational on 1 July 1999. Europol, which has its headquarters in The Hague, works in the same fields and, since 1 January 1999, also has powers to combat terrorism and money counterfeiting.
International smugglers, currency counterfeiters, drug runners and other criminals have reached such a level of sophistication and organization that, in many cases, only an internationally coordinated effort can intercept them.
By depending on national authorities for its arresting powers, Interpol is weakened.