Stephen House, chief constable of Police Scotland, said keeping people safe meant pursuing anyone who commits crime and disappears overseas.
Mr House said: "Smarter international engagement and co-operation will ensure that Scotland is a hostile place for criminals involved in serious organised crime and that neighbouring European countries and nations further afield are hostile places for those fleeing Scottish justice.
"The Fugitive Unit will be the first of its kind in Scotland and enable a national service to deliver real improvements for its local communities."
In addition, an international unit will deal more effectively with the twin threats of criminals from overseas and offenders who go on the run having committed offences on home turf.
Strathclyde Police has recently joined forces with officers in Spain to hunt for two men wanted over two separate murders in Scotland.
The force held a joint press conference with Crimestoppers in Madrid to appeal for information about the whereabouts of Derek McGraw Ferguson, who is wanted in connection with the murder of gangland figure Kevin "Gerbil" Carroll in January 2010, and William Paterson, who is wanted in connection with the 2007 shooting of Thomas Cameron in Bishopbriggs.