Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
Within the area of freedom, security and justice, the aim of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters is to ensure a high level of safety for EU citizens by preventing and combating crime, racism and xenophobia. It is dealt with in Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Chapters I, IV and V).
Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters takes the form of:
- cooperation between national police forces;
- cooperation between national customs services;
- cooperation between national judicial authorities.
It is implemented with the support of agencies set up by the European Union, mainly Eurojust, Europol and the European Judicial Network.
Cooperation under Title V also involves the approximation of rules on criminal matters in Member States and the development of mechanisms for the mutual recognition of judgments and judicial decisions in criminal matters. Measures to that end, excluding for operational cooperation, are adopted by the Council (qualified majority voting) and the European Parliament in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure. Legislation may either be proposed by the Commission or initiated by a quarter of Member States.
For cross-border situations, minimum rules may be proposed to facilitate the mutual recognition of judgments and judicial decisions as well as the defining of offences and sanctions in areas of particularly serious crime. Via an "emergency break" mechanism, Member States may block the adoption of these rules, in which case the European Council’s consensus is needed. In the event that consensus is not achieved, Member States may implement the proposal through enhanced cooperation.
Initially, Title VI of the Treaty on European Union contained provisions establishing cooperation on justice and home affairs. However, the Treaty of Amsterdam reduced the number of matters covered by Title VI by transferring several of them to the Treaty establishing the European Community (first pillar), specifically to Title IV: "Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons". The provisions on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters remained in Title VI of the EU Treaty (third pillar). Together, therefore, these titles formed the legal basis for an area of freedom, security and justice. Having eliminated the third pillar, the Lisbon Treaty regroups these provisions in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union under Title V: "Area of freedom, security and justice".