22nd Jan 2018

MEPs urge governments to scrap obstacles to EU arrest warrant

The European Parliament has called on member states to cut red tape and refrain from political interventions when they use the EU arrest warrant to order extradition of criminal suspects to another EU country.

The European arrest warrant, which came into force in January 2004, allows judges in EU states to call upon other member states' governments to extradite suspects, including their own nationals.

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But according to a report by French socialist MEP Adeline Hazan adopted on Wednesday (15 March), the warrant has still not been exploited to the full, due to a lack of trust among member states' authorities.

Ms Hazan argues "the lack of mutual trust between courts is associated with the shortage of common minimum standards in criminal procedures, which hampers effective judicial cooperation."

"A minimum degree of harmonisation of national law" is crucial to avoid this, according to the French MEP.

Deputies also suggested the warrant should become part of the so called "first pillar" of EU legislation where the union has most powers – this was also something envisaged by the EU constitution.

"This will probably be the best way to give greater effectiveness to the warrant but also to ensure its democratic character, as it will subject it to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice," said the Cypriot centre-right MEP Panayiotis Demetriou.

In a list of recommendations to be referred to the member states, the parliament also expressed its concerns over the continued "interference by the political authorities in the European arrest warrant procedure," which caused problems for its performance.

But the arrest warrant has also been hindered by practical obstacles, like translation difficulties.

Finally, Germany, Poland and Cyprus have encountered legal problems when applying the arrest warrant, mainly that it contradicted national constitutions.

But British liberal MEP Sarah Ludford praised the EU instrument, as it was used when a suspect in the attempted 21 July bombings in London was returned to the UK within weeks.

"Two actions are needed to bolster confidence in the operation of the European Arrest Warrant. The first is for the EU governments to agree a long-proposed obligation for practical measures such as decent interpretation, a 'letter of rights' and legal aid to improve fair trial safeguards," she said.

Court case could affect EU arrest warrant

The EU's highest court will this week rule on a Belgian case that could have EU-wide consequences for the European Arrest Warrant – one of the bloc's main tools for fighting terrorism and cross-border crimes.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

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