EUROJUST PRESS RELEASE – European Council agreed on the strengthening of Eurojust

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The Hague, 30 July 2008,

On 25 July 2008, a Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council meeting was held in Brussels. The EU justice ministers reached agreement on a new Decision strengthening Eurojust, and on a proposal for a new Decision on the European Judicial Network in criminal matters. They also exchanged views on a proposal for a Decision on the establishment of a European criminal records information system (ECRIS).

These proposals on Eurojust and the European Judicial Network (EJN) were presented in January 2008 by Slovenia, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, Estonia, Austria and Portugal.

The objectives of the proposal to strengthen Eurojust included the following steps:

creating a common minimum basis of National Members’ powers

creating an emergency co-ordination mechanism

improving the transmission of information to Eurojust

improving Eurojusts national base

strengthening judicial co-operation with third States by allowing Eurojust to post liaison magistrates in these countries, and strengthening co-operation with other bodies such as Europol, OLAF, Frontex, and SitCen

The Council also agreed on a new Decision on the EJN. The EJN was established on 29 June 1998. Over the years, the EJN has demonstrated its usefulness in facilitating judicial co-operation in criminal matters. Following the European Unions enlargements in 2004 and 2007, strengthening of the EJN became necessary. Over the past five years, the EJN has enjoyed preferential relations with Eurojust, based on consultation and complementary competences. The five years of co-existence of Eurojust and the EJN have shown the need to clarify their relationship.

The Council took note of the Commissions presentation of a proposal for a Decision on the establishment of a European criminal records information system (ECRIS). The objective of the proposal is to devise a computerised system for exchanging information on convictions between the EU Member States. The proposal defines the features of a standardised format for the electronic exchange of information from criminal records, particularly information on offences leading to convictions and information on convictions, as well as other technical and general aspects of information exchange.

BACKGROUND

After more than five years, it was time in 2007 to assess the experience gained by Eurojust and further enhance its operational effectiveness by taking that experience into account.

Eurojust needs to become more operational and the status of all National Members should be equivalent. The National Members should be required to work in The Hague, the seat of Eurojust, with each National Member assisted by at least one Deputy and at least one Assistant.

It is necessary to define a common basis of powers which every National Member should have in his or her capacity as competent national authority acting in accordance with national law.

Some of these powers should be granted to the National Member for urgent cases when it is not possible for the National Member to identify or contact the competent national authority in a timely manner.

National Members may, in their capacity as competent national authorities, in agreement with a competent national authority, or at its request and on a case-by-case basis, exercise the following powers:

§ issue and complete requests for, and decisions on, judicial co-operation, including regarding instruments giving effect to the principle of mutual recognition (e.g. European Arrest Warrants (EAWs))

§ execute in their Member State requests for, and decisions on, judicial co-operation, including regarding instruments giving effect to the principle of mutual recognition (e.g. EAWs)

§ order in their Member State concrete investigative measures considered necessary at a co-ordination meeting organised by Eurojust to provide assistance to competent national authorities and to which competent national authorities concerned with the investigation are invited to participate

§ authorise and co-ordinate controlled deliveries in their Member State

National Members shall be entitled to participate in joint investigation teams (JITs), including in their setting up. However, Member States may make the participation of the National Member subject to the agreement of the competent national authority. National Members, or Deputies or Assistants, shall be invited to participate in any JIT involving their Member State and for which Community funding is provided under the applicable financial instruments. Each Member State shall define whether the National Member participates in the JIT as a national competent authority or on behalf of Eurojust.

The new Decision does not affect the manner in which the Member States organise their internal judicial systems or administrative procedures for the designation of the National Member and the setting up of the internal working of the National Desks at Eurojust.

An On-Call Co-ordination System will be established within Eurojust to make Eurojust available around the clock and enable it to intervene in urgent cases.

The role of the College should be enhanced in cases of conflicts of jurisdiction and in cases of recurrent refusals or difficulties concerning the execution of requests for, and decisions on, judicial co-operation, including regarding instruments giving effect to the principle of mutual recognition.

A Eurojust national co-ordination system should be set up in the Member States to co-ordinate the work carried out by the national correspondents for Eurojust, the national correspondent for Eurojust for terrorism matters, the national correspondent for the EJN and up to three other contact points of the EJN, as well as representatives in the JITs, War Crimes, Asset Recovery and Corruption networks.

The national co-ordination system should ensure that the Case Management System (CMS) receives information related to the Member State concerned in an efficient and reliable manner. However, the national co-ordination system need not be responsible for actually transmitting information to Eurojust. Member States should decide on the best channel to be used for the transmission of information to Eurojust.

In order to enable the Eurojust national co-ordination system to fulfil its tasks, connection to the CMS should be ensured. The connection to the CMS will be made taking account of national IT systems. Access to the CMS at national level is based on the central role played by the National Member, who is responsible for the opening and management of temporary work files.

The Council Framework Decision on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters is applicable to the transferring of personal data between Member States and Eurojust. The relevant set of data protection provisions in the Council Decision setting up Eurojust will not be affected by the Framework Decision and contains specific provisions on the protection of personal data regulating these matters more in detail because of the particular nature, functions and competences of Eurojust.

Eurojust should be authorised to process certain personal data on persons who, under the national legislation of the Member States concerned, are suspected of having committed or having taken part in a criminal offence in respect of which Eurojust is competent or who have been convicted of such an offence. In addition, the list of personal data which Eurojust is authorised to process should include telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, vehicle registration data, DNA profiles established from the non-coding part of DNA, photographs and fingerprints. The list should also include traffic data and location data and the related data necessary to identify the subscriber or user of a publicly available electronic communications service: this list should not include data revealing the content of the communication.

Eurojust should be given the opportunity to prolong the deadlines for storage of personal data in order to achieve its objectives. Such decisions should be taken following careful consideration of particular needs. Any extension of deadlines for processing of personal data where prosecution is statute-barred in all Member States concerned should be decided only where there is a specific need to provide assistance under this decision.

It is also necessary to strengthen Eurojusts capacity to work with external partners, such as third States, Europol, OLAF, the EU Joint Situation Centre (SitCen) and Frontex.

Provision should be made for Eurojust to post liaison magistrates to third States in order to achieve objectives similar to those assigned to liaison magistrates seconded by the Member States on the basis of Joint Action 96/277/JHA.

This Decision allows the principle of public access to official documents to be taken into account.

The national authorities of the Member States shall exchange with Eurojust any information necessary for the performance of its tasks. This information shall include, at a minimum:

§ The transmission of information to Eurojust on the exchange of information and co-operation concerning terrorist offences
§ The setting up of joint investigation teams, whether set up under Article 13 of the Convention of 29 May 2000 or under Framework Decision 2002/465/JHA, and of the results of such teams
§ Information without undue delay in any case in which at least three Member States are directly involved and related to serious organised cross-border crime, such as:

– trafficking in human beings

– sexual exploitation of children and child pornography

– drug trafficking

– trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition

– corruption

– fraud affecting the financial interests of the European Community

– counterfeiting of the euro

– money laundering

– attacks against information systems

or where there are factual indications that a criminal organisation is involved, or there are indications that the case may have serious cross-border dimensions or repercussions at European Union level or that the information might affect Member States other than those directly involved

§ Information on cases where conflicts of jurisdiction have arisen or are likely to arise

§ Information on controlled deliveries affecting at least three States, at least two of which are Member States

§ Information on repeated difficulties or refusals regarding the execution of requests for, and decisions on, judicial co-operation, including regarding instruments giving effect to the principle of mutual recognition

A press conference was held after the Council meeting. In attendance were the President of the JAI Council, Ms Rachida Dati, Justice Minister for France, Mr Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Mr Lopes da Mota, President of Eurojust.

Mr Lopes da Mota added the Eurojust perspective:

“This is an important agreement in the construction of a European judicial area. This political agreement will render Eurojust more effective. Eurojust started in 2002; we learned from our difficulties. After only six months, a fundamental step in the reinforcement of the operational capacity of Eurojust was taken today.”

Mr Lopes da Mota then thanked the French Presidency for concluding this new Decision so quickly and the Slovenian Presidency for their work in drafting this new Decision. He referred to the Eurojust Seminar, “Navigating the Way Forward”, held in Lisbon and strongly supported by the Portuguese Presidency, which provided the basis for this new Decision on strengthening Eurojust.

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