Judicial cooperation: Commission proposes rules on the transfer of criminal proceedings between Member States
Today, the European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Regulation on the transfer of criminal proceedings between Member States. Increasing cross-border crime has led to more and more cases where several Member States have jurisdiction to prosecute the same case. Parallel or multiple prosecutions can be inefficient and ineffective, but also possibly detrimental to the rights of the individuals concerned as a person may not be prosecuted or punished for the same offence twice.
This proposal will therefore help prevent duplications of proceedings and avoid cases of impunity where surrender under a European Arrest Warrant is refused. Furthermore, it will help ensure that criminal proceedings are conducted in the best-placed Member State, for example, in the State where the major part of the crime occurred. These common rules will include:
- a list of common criteria for transfer of proceedings, as well as grounds for refusing the transfer of proceedings;
- a time limit for a decision on the transfer of proceedings;
- rules on costs for translation and on the effects of the transfer of proceedings;
- obligations with respect to the rights for the suspects and accused persons, as well as victims;
- rules on the use of cross-border digital channel for communication between competent authorities.
In order to improve the efficiency of the transfer procedure, the proposed Regulation also provides for jurisdiction in specific cases. It is expected to reduce the level of fragmentation, provide greater legal certainty and eventually increase the number of successfully transferred criminal proceedings.
The proposed Regulation will now have to be discussed and agreed by the European Parliament and the Council before entering into force.
EU Member States currently transfer criminal proceedings between themselves using a variety of different legal instruments, rather than a uniform legal framework across the EU. For example, the European Convention on the Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters of 15 May 1972 was ratified and applied only by 13 Member States. The majority of Member States rely on the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (article 21), under which transfers are largely unregulated and rely on national laws. Member States signed an Agreement on the transfer of proceedings in criminal matters, as early as 1990, but it has not entered into force.
A measure on transfer of proceedings has been under discussion since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which changed the way EU rules in the criminal law field were presented and adopted. This proposal is delivering on the goals set in the EU strategy to tackle organised crime, which emphasises that transfer of criminal proceedings is an important tool which would reinforce the fight against organised criminal groups that are active in the Member States across the EU.
As the proposal concerns cross-border procedures, where uniform rules are required, the Commission is putting forward a proposal for a Regulation, directly applicable in all Member States and binding in its entirety. It therefore guarantees a common application of the rules across the EU and their entry into force at the same time. It ensures legal certainty by avoiding different interpretations in the Member States, thus preventing legal fragmentation. The Commission’s proposal will contribute to the efficient and proper administration of criminal justice in the Member States.