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Commission takes action to ensure Croatia correctly implements the European Arrest Warrant

Commission Européenne - MEMO/13/793   18/09/2013

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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 18 September 2013

Commission takes action to ensure Croatia correctly implements the European Arrest Warrant

Today the European Commission is launching the so-called "Article 39 procedure" on Croatia. This means the activation of the justice and home affairs safeguard clause in Croatia's Accession Treaty to take appropriate measures in view of the continued non-compliance by Croatia with the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision.

These measures include enhanced monitoring and the suspension of the Schengen Facility (established by Article 31 of Croatia's Accession Treaty). The Schengen facility was set up to support Croatia in the implementation of the Schengen acquis. These Schengen funds are currently earmarked to help prepare Croatia's Schengen accession.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner together with President Barroso and Commissioner Füle who is responsible for enlargement policy, informed the College about the facts and received full backing for action under Article 39 of Croatia's Accession Treaty (see text in Annex).

On this basis the Commission has today started the consultation with Member States on the proposed action. Member States have ten working days to provide comments.

This move follows numerous Commission warnings and exchanges with the Croatian authorities over the summer. The Commission has consistently requested a swift and unconditional correction of the Croatian legislation implementing the European Arrest Warrant to bring it back in line with the EU-acquis. This had been the commitment of the Croatian authorities during the accession negotiations. Whilst Croatia has offered to return its law to legality it set as a condition its entry into force on 15 July 2014. This long delay is unjustified. In June 2013 it had taken Croatia only a few days - just three days prior to Croatia's EU accession – to change its legislation in a manner which contradicts the European Arrest Warrant. Returning it back to conformity should not take longer.

Background and chronology of events

Croatia had correctly transposed the European Arrest Warrant through the Act on Judicial cooperation with Member States of the European Union of 2010. It is on this basis that the negotiations on EU-accession were concluded and the Accession Treaty signed and ratified by the national parliaments of all other 27 Member States. This was done in good faith and under the assumption that Croatia would honour its commitments taken during accession negotiations.

On 28 June 2013, just three days before accession, the Croatian parliament adopted far-reaching changes to its national law implementing the European Arrest Warrant. This was done despite warnings from the Commission that such amendments were incompatible with EU law. The revised law limits in time the application of the European Arrest Warrant. Under the modified legislation, Croatia would not have to surrender to other Member States persons accused or convicted of crimes committed before 7 August 2002.

The possibility to limit the temporal application of the European Arrest Warrant was made available for Member States at the time of adoption of the Framework Decision in 2002. Pursuant to Article 32 of the Framework Decision, Member States could, at the time of its adoption, make a statement, and publish it in the Official Journal, indicating that as an executing state they would not apply the European arrest warrant retroactively for crimes committed prior to a certain date (7 August 2002). Only three Member States made such a declaration (Austria, France and Italy). Croatia did not include a corresponding clause in its Accession Treaty and therefore cannot make use of such an option.

The limitation of the European Arrest Warrant is a clear and serious violation of EU law. It thwarts the legitimate expectations of other Member States to be able to request the surrender of alleged and convicted criminals from Croatia as of the countries' accession to the EU, under a rapid and efficient European Arrest Warrant system. According to the Croatian authorities by 6 September 2013, the country had received 121 requests under the European Arrest Warrant, 23 of them for offences committed before 7 August 2002. There are therefore more than 20 requests under the European Arrest Warrant that Croatia does not honour at the moment.

For more information

European Arrest Warrant:

http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/judicial_cooperation_in_criminal_matters/l33167_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

ANNEX

ACT concerning the conditions of accession of the Republic of Croatia and the adjustments to the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community

OJ L 112 of 24.4.2012

Article 39

If there are serious shortcomings or any imminent risk of such shortcomings in Croatia in the transposition or state of implementation of acts adopted by the institutions pursuant to Part Three, Title V of the TFEU as well as of acts adopted by the institutions before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon pursuant to Title VI of the TEU or pursuant to Part Three, Title IV of the Treaty establishing the European Community, the Commission may, until the end of a period of up to three years after accession, upon the reasoned request of a Member State or on its own initiative and after consulting the Member States, adopt appropriate measures and specify the conditions and arrangements applicable thereto.

These measures may take the form of a temporary suspension of the application of relevant provisions and decisions in the relations between Croatia and any other Member State or Member States, without prejudice to the continuation of close judicial cooperation. The safeguard clause may be invoked even before accession on the basis of the monitoring findings and the measures adopted shall enter into force on the date of accession unless they provide for a later date. The measures shall be maintained no longer than strictly necessary and, in any case, shall be lifted when the shortcomings are remedied. They may, however, be applied beyond the period referred to in the first paragraph as long as these shortcomings persist. In response to progress made by Croatia in rectifying the identified shortcomings, the Commission may adapt the measures as appropriate after consulting the Member States. The Commission shall inform the Council in good time before revoking the safeguard measures, and it shall take duly into account any observations of the Council in this respect.


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