6th Jun 2023

Just under 16,000 European arrest warrants issued in 2020

  • The warrants have in the past been issued for minor crimes, including riding a bicycle while drunk. (Photo: Coast Guard)
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Almost 16,000 European arrests warrants were issued in 2020, compared to just over 20,000 in 2019, according to a European Commission document.

The warrants allow authorities in the 27 EU states to extradite people wanted for crimes where the offence carries a maximum penalty of at least one year in prison.

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It can also be issued for a custodial sentence or detention order when the person sought has been sentenced to at least four months in jail.

The 16,000 covers everything from prosecution as well as surrender orders to either face trial or to serve a prison sentence in another EU state.

The warrants have in the past been issued for minor crimes, including riding a bicycle while drunk, or for the political persecution of Catalan politicians.

Over a 100 of such requests were refused in 2020 and mostly by Germany due to issues linked to fundamental rights.

But the latest statistics also provide an insight into how EU states handle or issue such requests and for what purposes.

Not all EU states offered figures, so the following data points are not entirely conclusive.

However, with the figures that were given puts theft and criminal damages at the top of the list of offences with almost 3,000 warrants issued.

This was followed by drug (1,508) and fraud and corruption offences (1,154). Poland also topped the list with 679 warrants related to theft and criminal offences.

At the bottom end, warrants for counterfeiting the euro offences led to only 23 warrants, followed by 103 for firearms/explosives and then 224 for human trafficking.

Romania issued the most human trafficking warrants with 93, followed by France (61) and Belgium (39).

Terrorism offences drew 178 warrants, mostly issued by France.

A total of some 6,152 arrests were made in 2020, following the warrants. Germany topped the list with 1,605, followed by Netherlands (719) and Spain (699).

Some 7,000 procedures for surrender were also initiated in 2020. Those procedures provide additional insights.

Just over half consented to their surrender with an average length of the procedure taking 44 days after the arrest, compared to only 16 days in 2019.

This poses a number of problems, especially in Greece where the average length was 521 days. By comparison, Luxembourg took one day, Malta two days, and Slovenia around 4.5 days over the same period of time.

For those who refused to consent, the procedure lasted around 111 days, up from around 55 in 2019.

Greece again topped the list averaging over 900 days, compared to only around 49 in 2019. By comparison, Luxembourg took 15 days, Malta 18 days, and Spain and Romania both 20 days.


Free movement threatened if European arrest warrant abused

Selecting in which country to execute a European Arrest Warrant - as Spain appears to have done in the Puigdemont case - sets worrying precedents as EU states such as Poland and Hungary diverge from the rule of law.

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