Brussels, 19 June 2012
Developing a coherent EU Criminal Policy in line with Fundamental Rights: Commission gathers high-level experts
Today, Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, opened the inaugural meeting of the expert group on EU criminal policy. Twenty high-level legal experts, academics and practitioners, are meeting to discuss and advise the European Commission on key questions of EU criminal law. The group includes judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers from thirteen different EU Member States representing the major legal traditions of the EU (see Annex).
The expert group will contribute to improve the quality of EU legislation in the field of criminal law, in the light of the new rules of the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It will meet twice a year. The group was created following a policy Communication published in September 2011 in which the Commission set out the strategy and principles it intends to apply when using EU criminal law to strengthen the enforcement of European policies and protect the interests of citizens (see IP/11/1049).
"With the Lisbon Treaty in force, today the European Union is much better equipped to fight cross-border crime through the use of criminal law. There are, however, also clear legal and democratic limits to what we can do. EU criminal law must be developed with fundamental rights always in mind, notably fair trial rights, in agreement with the European Parliament and in respect of the different legal systems and traditions across the EU", said Vice-President Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The invaluable expertise assembled in the expert group on criminal law will enable the European Commission to develop a more coherent approach to criminal law at EU level."
EU criminal law can help ensure that EU-wide rules are respected. Rules on preventing manipulation of financial markets through practices such as insider trading (IP/11/1218), on safeguarding taxpayers' money from fraud (IP/11/644) or on protecting the environment are only effective if they are enforced.
The EU's Council of Ministers has been creating rules in the area of criminal law for more than a decade with the aim of better fighting crime that has become increasingly international and sophisticated. But these rules often lacked a coherent policy basis.
The Lisbon Treaty allows the EU to make use of criminal law to strengthen the enforcement of EU policies and rules. Criminal law legislation must now be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, under full judicial control of the European Court of Justice. In addition, national Parliaments are called upon to play a strong role in the development of EU legislation on criminal law.
In view of this changed legal landscape, the European Commission published, in September 2011, a policy document entitled "Towards an EU Criminal Policy – Ensuring the effective implementation of EU policies through criminal law" which sets out the conditions under which the Union should put in place a coherent and consistent EU criminal policy.
With the establishment of today's expert group the Commission is delivering on its announcement of last September. On 21 February 2012, the Commission adopted a decision setting up the group which held its first meeting in Brussels today.
The group's composition seeks to provide a high level of expertise and, as far as possible, an adequate balance in terms of range of competencies, geographical origin and gender. The members have a mandate of three years and act in a personal capacity without remuneration.
The discussions during the inaugural meeting today focused on two recurrent topics – the interplay between administrative and criminal sanctions as well as the obligation for Member States to provide for "effective, proportionate and dissuasive" criminal sanctions.
For more information
Justice Directorate General Newsroom:
EU criminal law policy:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)
Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)
Annex: Members of the Expert Group on EU Criminal Policy
Peter Asp Professor, University of Stockholm
Luigi Foffani Professor, University of Modena
Dan Frände Professor, University of Helsinki
Estella Baker Professor, University of Sheffield
Berend Ferdinand Keulen Professor, University of Groningen
Valsamis Mitsilegas Professor, University of London, Queen Mary
Helmut Satzger Professor, University of Munich
Jocelyne Leblois-Happe Professor, University of Strasbourg
Pedro Caeiro Professor, University of Coimbra
Kristine Strada-Rozenberga Professor, University of Latvia
Jorge Espina Prosecutor
Joachim Ettenhofer Prosecutor; EJN Contact Point
Mike Kennedy Crown Prosecution Service
Galina Toneva Deputy Prosecutor General
Ignazio Patrone Prosecutor General's Office
Margarete von Galen Defence Lawyer
Paul Garlick Barrister, QC
Hans Sundberg Judge, Court of Appeal
Béatrice Blanc Judge, President Tribunal de Grande Instance
Igor Dzialuk Independent Expert (former Undersecretary of State,
Ministry of Justice and former Prosecutor)