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Fight against organised crime and terrorism: role of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network
The Commission takes stock of the transposition of the Decision setting up Eurojust. Following its examination, it proposes granting wider powers to the national members and the College. It also wishes to clarify and simplify the relations between this law enforcement cooperation unit and its partners (European Judicial Network, Europol, OLAF, Frontex and non-EU countries).
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 23 October 2007 on the role of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in the European Union [COM(2007) 644 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Eurojust has strengthened law enforcement cooperation between Member States and achieved significant operational success. The transposition of Decision 2002/187/JHA is on balance a qualified success. To develop Eurojust more effectively, the powers of its members (known as national members) and those of the College, formed by the assembly of national members, need to be clarified and reinforced.
The Commission calls for an amendment to the Decision establishing Eurojust in order to enable the agency to develop its potential for cooperation and to establish itself as a vital player in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Europe.
Granting wider powers to the national members
The statute and competences of each national member are defined by the Member State which appoints them. This situation leads to a lack of consistency between the powers of the different national members and makes it difficult at present to achieve fully effective cooperation. Furthermore, Member States do not confer real authority on them. Therefore, only a few national members may negotiate setting up joint investigation teams and use their law enforcement powers in their home country.
For greater stability and effectiveness, the Member States should take measures to spell out the powers of the national members and the college and define a shared base of minimum powers.
To increase Eurojust's operational capacity, Member States are called upon to send their information to Eurojust more quickly, and also to reinforce their national offices. They will also make use of the services of national experts.
Possible amendments to increase the powers of the national members
The Commission suggests the Decision by proposing that the national members can:
- accept and forward requests from national authorities and ensure that they are properly followed up;
- receive judgments from national authorities in cases of money laundering, organised crime, terrorism and human trafficking;
- forward this information to the national member of a Member State which is not informed but which is involved;
- be informed of the setting up of a Joint Investigation Team and suggest investigative measures;
- request further follow-up measures and additional investigations from the authority concerned;
- be informed about the organisation of a controlled delivery, an infiltration or an undercover investigation and have responsibility for monitoring it;
- be appointed for a term of at least three years;
- have deputies to ensure regular representation.
In the longer term, the Commission will examine how to reinforce the powers of the national members in the initiation of criminal cases prejudicial to the financial interests of the European Union (EU).
Granting wider powers to the college
The College has the same powers as the national members. Although the College rules on conflicts of jurisdiction and on competing arrest warrants, its decisions are not binding on the Member States. Its powers should be widened and its role as mediator in resolving conflicts between Member States strengthened. The latter in fact refer to the College only to obtain information on the steps to be taken where disagreements arise.
The Commission undertakes to consider the conditions on which the College will be able to:
- settle conflicts between Member States;
- launch inquiries in a Member State and propose prosecution;
- play a role in specific investigation measures;
- initiate criminal inquiries at European level.
Relations between Eurojust, the European Judicial Network and the liaison magistrates
The European Judicial Network (EJN) facilitates judicial cooperation between Member States, in particular through its Internet site on the systems of justice in Europe. However, cooperation between the network and Eurojust must be improved. The Commission hopes that each Eurojust member will become attached to a national correspondent who will be one of the European Judicial Network contact points. This correspondent would be part of the Eurojust member’s team. S/he would be a relay for Eurojust’s communication policy in their Member State and would forward the cases to be examined promptly to the national member.
In the future, Eurojust could themselves designate the liaison magistrates in countries outside the EU so as to facilitate judicial cooperation between the Member States and the countries concerned.
Stepping up cooperation with Europol
The links between Eurojust and Europol have constantly improved. The secure communications network has facilitated the exchange of information between them and access to Europol's analytical work files. Finally, the expert meetings on Joint Investigation Team have achieved high quality work.
However, cooperation between Eurojust and the Europol national liaison offices is still uneven. The links should be strengthened and exchanges of data with these offices should be improved.
Cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Frontex and non-EU countries
The fields of responsibility of Eurojust and OLAF are complementary. The Commission therefore proposes to establish a regular exchange of information between the two agencies in order to strengthen cooperation. It also emphasises the need to continue to appoint contact points and establish regular meetings between Eurojust and OLAF.
The protection of the EU's external borders is important in connection with illegal immigration and organised crime. The Commission encourages the signing of a cooperation agreement between Frontex and Eurojust.
Eurojust has signed agreements with third countries aimed at developing an exchange of personal data and information between judicial authorities. These agreements have led to sending of liaison officers to Eurojust. The agency now wishes to develop a veritable network of contact points.