European ATLAS Group

The organization of the European Union established to fight organized crime more effectively fight organized crime at the EU level.


Organization`s insignia

By strengthening of the globalization process geographical and political boundaries between states and people debilitate, information are becoming easy to get, simply and quickly to exchange. Although offering lots of advantages, this abrupt, global process affects modern crime, as well as its the most dangerous type-terrorism, which are not national security threats any more, but becoming global more and more.

All together
to protect You!
Terrorist attacks in New York September 11 2001 resulting near 3000 persons killed, showed, on one side, how great danger modern terrorism is and how really powerful these organizations are, and on the other side, all the weaknesses and omissions of then USA security system.

Soon after these attacks, an initiative in Europe emerges to cooperate on the international level[1], in order to protect more effectively against terrorist threats. The idea, endorsed by the representatives of the Belgian Special Forces Directorate, was aimed on growing cooperation of the European Union state members at tactical and operational level, as well as implementation of concrete legal mechanisms to law systems of the national states that should be theoretical foundation for developing future cooperation.

October 2001 at the meeting held in Brussels, attended by fifteen commanders of the elite units from state members and political officials of the European Union, unanimously was concluded to found the ATLAS Group. On the occasion goals of the new organizations were established as well, principles of work and segregation of duties. At first, it was concluded to establish and grow mutual communication of the organization members and spread it on conducting joint training, respectively. All this for joint and effective respond to eventual wider security threats at the Europe ground, especially ones with terrorist features.

On December 23 2008, on the initiative of the command of Austrian anti-terrorist unit EKO (Germ. Einsatzkommando) Cobra[2] the Council of Europe issued the decision announcing the foundation of the ATLAS Group, and after the decision from January 1 2009, every ATLAS-member unit can require professional guidance, or assistance by conceding material and/or human resources.

Today ATLAS Group enlists 35[3] units from 28 European countries, under the jurisdiction of the General Directorate for Internal Affairs of the European Commission. The number of members is not permanent and mostly depends on the expansion of the European Union[4]. However, among ATLAS Group members are units from Norway (DELTA), and Switzerland (ATU), although these countries are not members of the EU. Units of these states do not have a right to vote when considering ATLAS Group actions, nor could use funds of the organizations, provided from the EU. Most of member states give one unit as a representative established by the national law system and intended for special tasks/operations, while France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Germany have two ATLAS representatives each.

The cooperation of the ATLAS Group units includes intensive information share and joint training through joint anti-terrorist tactical exercises and security seminars. Also, the cooperation includes joint interventions or assistances in order to deal with crisis on the territory of any national state which has a representative in the ATLAS Group, that are direct threats to the security of EU citizens, their possessions, but Institutions of the EU as well. Although official formulations within the founding documents do not define it, the cooperation between members of the organization also relates to the mutual assistance in natural disasters or other wider accidents.

The efficiency of ATLAS Group work greatly depends on the unique rules and standards by which the organization is established. Entering the ATLAS Group every unit must accept ongoing standards of the organization.


The organization of the ATLAS Group is very similar to the classic anti-terrorist units. This due to the rationalization of cooperation among units` representatives, because they, as a rule, under similar systems perform duties within their own units. ATLAS Group has Management and operational element. Management is consisted of the Director and Managing Group. The Director is elected among commanders of the ATLAS members, while the Managing Group is consisted of 6 commanders of the units marked as heads of Working Groups. The Director coordinates the Managing Group activities, issue orders and directions to the chiefs of Working Groups, gives opinions and evaluations of their work, confirms chosen annual working plan and program of the organization. Chiefs of Working Groups harmonize activities of their groups with the ongoing plan and program, as well with the Statute of the ATLAS Group, make activity plans and programs and the like. The Management in regular occasions gathers two times per year and on those occasions a plan and program of mutual cooperation through joint tactical exercises, seminars and courses is made. Also, new technological and theoretical novelties in the area of fighting organized crime are presented along with possible implementations considerations and all other elements important for effective functioning of the organization are deemed as well.

The operational sector is divided into several Working Groups organized over the specific segments of special actions. To coordinate better, for every Working Group one unit is elected to carry all activities within certain areas. For instance, the management of the French GIGN (Fren. Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) is in charge of the group intended for crisis in hijacked airplanes, while management of the French RAID (Fren. Recherche Assistance Intervention Dissuasion) the main coordinator in the Working Group for Resolving Complex Hostage Crisis in all types of land transports. Austrian counter terrorist unit EKO Cobra is in charge of the Working Group for Buildings Breaching, Arresting and Hostage Crisis in Closed and Semi-Closed Buildings, while German GSG 9 organizes activities within the Group for Marine Operations including hostage crisis on hijacked vessels.

Lately, besides these four elite units, by the significance and complexity of given tasks Holland DSI stands out coordinating activities of Negotiation Team, while counter terrorist of the Belgian Police CGSU is in charge for monitoring and analyzing technical novelties and usage of technical equipment when conducting special actions.

Present ATLAS Group members are units:

Acvila and SIAS from Romania, AKS from Denmark, ARAS from Lithuania, BOA from Poland, DSI from Netherlands, DSU from Belgium, EAO from Cyprus, EKAM from Greece, EKO Cobra from Austria, ERU from Ireland, GIGN and RAID from France, GIS and NOCS from Italy, GEO and UEI from Spain, COE/GNR and GOE from Portugal, GSG 9 and SEK from Germany, Karhu from Finland, Kommando-K from Estonia, Lynx from Slovakia, NI from Sweden, OMEGA from Latvia, Specialna Enota from Slovenia, ATU Luchko from Croatia, SAG from Malta, SUCT from Bulgaria, TEK from Hungary, URNA from the Czech Republic, USP from Luxembourg, DELTA from Norway, ATU from Switzerland.


The name and insignia`s symbols which the organization adopted were chosen from a myth from the Greek mythology. Namely, Atlas, whose name in Greece means “the one who carries, carrier”, was of the Titans, one of the actors in the rebel against Gods. After the unsuccessful uprising, many Titans were imprisoned deeply under the Tartarus Mountain, while Atlas was cursed by Zeus to carry the Sky on his shoulders for eternity. Some of later interpretations of this myth wrongly present Atlas holding the Earth. A huge burden that Titan carries on his backs symbolizes a great responsibility entrusted to the ATLAS units.


One of the goals of connecting European units within the ATLAS Group is to increase the operational capacities of every, as well to professionally develop operators through joint courses, seminars and tactical exercises.

The purpose of professional development of this kind is for operators to perceive the significance of cooperation with colleagues from abroad and that by a good synchronization of actions even most complex tactical situations of wider volume can be solved. In addition, in conditions similar to real combat it could have been tested at which level is joint tactics and communication of the operators of international police groups. Knowledge and experiences attained on these occasions, operators can afterwards transfer to the colleagues in their country and implement in the training.

At regular occasions, the majority of ATLAS Group activities is related to planning, organizing and carrying out joint tactical exercises in Europe. One of significant was the joint anti-terrorist exercise Bomb May 2010, organized and carried out in Poland, which was the host of the ATLAS activities for the first time back then.

In the exercise organized in Rini, near the capital Warsaw besides Polish operators participating were ones from Austria (EKO Cobra), Slovenia (Special Police Unit), Slovakia (Lynx), Latvia (ARAS) and Portugal (GOE).

Exercise realization preceded two-week detail preparations relating to consonance of tactics and communication, all that for synchronized and effective tasks execution.

Tactical suppositions related to terrorist attacks on several Warsaw locations. One of the attacks occurred in the Rini hotel, near the Zegrzintsky Lake where a ceremony of one big European company was organized. Armed terrorist group stormed the hotel killed and seriously injured several persons, while most of present took as hostages.

After learning about the attack, intervention team of the Polish Bureau for Anti-terrorist Operations was activated and after arriving to the venue of crisis blocked the wider surroundings of the hotel and opened the negotiations with member of the terrorist group, respectively. Through negotiations was determined that terrorists demand shutting down the nuclear power plant that is under construction near the city of Warsaw, resigning of all members of the Polish Government who supported that project and releasing three of their organization companions imprisoned. Considering that negotiations were not developing, crisis operational tactical headquarters, set in the near forest, began with intervention planning by storming the hotel to release all the hostages, arrest or neutralize all members of the terrorist group. Afterwards, at triage spot medical care would be provided to injured persons along with identity checks, and in the hotel objects counter diversion inspection would be conducted as well as crime scene investigation. Simultaneously, Polish state leaders asked for assistance of the ATLAS Group members to deal with the crisis.

Through field work was determined strength of the terrorist group and identities of the members, as well as rooms where hostages are being held.

In the meantime, through negotiations a small improvement was made, so terrorists released several of hostages. Above the occupied buildings helicopters Bell 206 and combat Mi8 were performing maneuvers in order to recon the buildings and surroundings and intervention teams took positions at several spots from where they will simultaneously begin with task execution. When became obvious that negotiations will not bring any further improvements, the order for attack was issued. Intervention teams approached the buildings from two sides. Sniping pairs, positioned at several sports in the surroundings and rooftops of the near buildings provided support to the assault teams with a task to assist in neutralization of the terrorists, if possible. The breach of the international teams was conducted in a short time, and soon all the terrorists were detained or neutralized, resulting in successful completion of the intervention.

In the end of October 2010, another significant joint anti-terrorist exercise of the ATLAS Group named Baltic Sea Storm 2010 was carried out in the Macklenbourg Bay in Germany.

The participants of the exercise were operators of the units from Sweden (NI), France (GIGN), Spain (GEO), Belgium (DSU), Denmark (AKS), and organizers and hosts were chiefs and operators of German units (SEK and GSG 9). Commanders of the units took place in intervention planning within the tactical operational headquarters.

The exercise realization was preceded with four-day preparations to consonance the tactics of the international teams.

The exercise scenario related to the occupation of the transport vessel in the Macklenbourg Bay, near the Rostock. Terrorist group with 10 members in strength, armed with automatic firearms and equipped with improvised explosive devices and hand grenades, took 112 persons on the vessel as hostages. If leaders of the state do not fulfill their demands, mostly of political connotation, terrorist will assassinate all hostages and sink the vessel. After negotiations dropping, in accordance with the decision of the tactical operational headquarters preparations for the hijacked vessel storming began. Within preparations a trial exercise on the similar vessel was conducted at contiguous port. The assault itself on the vessel where terrorist took hostages was conducted by air and by water, synchronously from multiple directions. To support this, German, Swedish and Danish helicopters and fast assault boats RHIB were activated. Sniping specialists from helicopters provided support to the assaulting teams who were approaching the vessel by boats, and air insertions operators performed by Fast Rope techniques. The medical team, as well as rescue group were standing by in the rear. They will, after the attacked is finished and vessel taken under control, provide medical care to injured persons.

Tasks of the assaulting teams included taking the vessel, especially commanding bridge, arresting or neutralizing all the terrorists, releasing hostages and their escorting to the triage spot for medical care and identity checks. Afterwards, IED specialists, along with K9 handlers will conduct counter diversion inspect of the vessel and surroundings.

Amid April 2013, a wide anti-terrorist exercise of the ATLAS Group was carried out named Common Challenge 2013 on the territories of nine countries, members of the EU. This exercise was also the biggest one that ATLAS Group organized by the time. For managing the entire exercise General Directorate for Internal Affairs of the European Commission was in charge, along with officers of the German GSG 9.

Tactical suppositions related to a terrorist attacks on power plants infrastructures, hostage crisis in schools, molls and public transports.

In Slovakia, within the tactical exercise Common Challenge 2013 a complex crisis situation was organized based on the situation in Beslan school in Russia 2004. Participating in the place of Kolarov, besides Slovakian operators, were operators from Hungary (TEK) and Slovenia (Special Police Unit).

[1] The first proposition of this kind of cooperation related to intensifying the information exchange between national security systems.
[2] Of the former name GEK (Germ. Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando) Cobra.
[3] After Brexit in June 2016, British SCO19 leaves the ATLAS Group.
[4] It should be mentioned the possibility of elite units of the countries that are not EU members to attend joint seminars and/or tactical exercises, but only as spectators. This is approved by the political agreement.

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