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30th Apr 2017

Brussels seeks more powers for EU crime body

The European Commission wants to strengthen Eurojust, the bloc's judicial body, giving it more powers to fight cross-border crime. It has also indicated that the idea of having a single European prosecutor should be picked up.

"Eurojust should be made stronger," EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said on Tuesday (17 April), adding that in autumn he would present his vision on ways in which to improve the five-year old body's legal structure.

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Currently, the Hague-based network of national prosecutors and judges serves as a helping hand to member states when dealing with serious cross-border crime.

Mr Frattini indicated that the commission's paper would suggest harmonisation of responsibilities of member states' representatives to Eurojust – at the moment they vary widely.

In addition, he wants to harmonise member states' powers, particularly, to improve the quality and information handed over from EU capitals to The Hague.

"The communication's message [to member states] will be - make better use of joint investigation teams and make Eurojust involved," Mr Frattini said.

Currently, Eurojust's team is highly dependent on the EU capitals' goodwill to cooperate.

The commissioner's words were immediately echoed by Eurojust president Michael Kennedy, saying "member states should be referring more cases to us."

This year, Eurojust expects to deal with up to 1,000 criminal cases, as it annually experiences an estimated 30 percent increase in the number of reported cross-border incidents. The cases often include trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings, counterfeiting and child pornography.

According to one Eurojust official, Brussels' attempt to strengthen the judicial body mirrors the ambitions set out in the European constitution, which was rejected in 2005 by France and the Netherlands. The treaty, likely to be revived in some form by the end of this year, sees Eurojust as the key-stone for a single European prosecution office.

Mr Frattini himself said he wanted to find out what the member states' mood for having a European prosecutor was. "It is an idea that needs to be explored", he said.

It is assumed that the European prosecutor would – similar to the US federal prosecutor – have powers to initiate and proceed with the investigation of a case.

But the idea is likely to meet national resistance, with one diplomat telling EUobserver "the problem is that we [the EU] don't have common definitions of crimes, nor do we recognise anything like a federal crime."

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