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11/09/2013

Another landmark of the procedural rights agenda has been met: European Parliament adopts Commission proposal on access to a lawyer

A new law to guarantee the rights of all citizens to be advised by a lawyer when facing criminal proceedings today received the backing of the European Parliament plenary who adopted the proposal with an overwhelming majority (with 661 votes in favour, 29 against and 8 abstentions). The new law will mean that anyone who is a suspect – no matter where they are in the European Union – will be guaranteed the right to see a lawyer from the earliest stages of proceedings until their conclusion. The new rules will also ensure that anyone arrested has the opportunity to communicate with their family. If they are in another EU country, citizens would have the right to be in contact with their country’s consulate.

"EU citizens have the right to a fair trial, whatever their nationality and wherever they are in the Union,” said Viviane Reding, Commission Vice-President and Justice Commissioner. “We have built up a series of procedural rights in EU law and the right to be advised by a lawyer is a central part. I would like to thank the European Parliament for its support, and particularly Rapporteur MEP Oana Antonescu, for her instrumental work on this initiative. I count on national Ministers to do their part to make sure that this law swiftly becomes a reality on the ground."

Today’s vote by the European Parliament plenary follows a vote by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) in favour of the Commission’s proposal (MEMO/13/589). The LIBE vote followed an agreement at a so-called trilogue meeting between the Commission and the EU’s two co-legislators (the European Parliament and the Council, in which the Member States are represented) on 28 May 2013 (MEMO/13/468). EU Justice Ministers then endorsed the agreement on the draft law at their meeting of the Justice Council on 6 June 2013 (see SPEECH/13/514).

It is the third in a series of Directives proposed by Vice-President Reding since 2010 to guarantee fair trial rights for citizens, wherever they are in Europe. The Directive on Access to a Lawyer (IP/11/689) is one of the key actions to improve citizens’ lives announced in the Commission’s 2010 EU Citizenship Report.

Next steps: The text will now pass to the Council of Ministers of the European Union for formal adoption, signature and publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

 

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