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Background

History of Eurojust

Eurojust celebrated its tenth anniversary on 28 February 2012. The discussion on the establishment of a judicial cooperation unit was first introduced at a European Council Meeting in Tampere, Finland, on 15 and 16 October 1999, attended by heads of state and government. This meeting was dedicated to the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice in the European Union, based on solidarity and on the reinforcement of the fight against trans-border crime by consolidating cooperation among authorities.

To reinforce the fight against serious organised crime, the European Council, in its Conclusion 46, agreed that a unit (Eurojust) should be set up, composed of national prosecutors, magistrates, or police officers of equivalent competence, detached from each Member State according to their own legal systems.

On 14 December 2000, on the initiative of Portugal, France, Sweden and Belgium, a provisional judicial cooperation unit was formed under the name Pro-Eurojust, operating from the Council building in Brussels. National Members were then called National Correspondents. This unit was the forerunner of Eurojust, the purpose of which was to be a sounding board of prosecutors from all Member States, where Eurojust’s principles would be tried and tested.

Pro-Eurojust formally started work on 1 March 2001 under the Swedish Presidency of the European Union.

With the attacks of 9/11 in the USA, the focus on the fight against terrorism moved from the regional/national sphere to its widest international context and served as a catalyst for the formalisation, by Council Decision 2002/187/JHA, of the establishment of Eurojust as a judicial coordination unit. In the first half of 2002, during the Spanish Presidency of the EU, important milestones were reached: the Eurojust Decision was published on 28 February, the budget was released in May, and the Rules of Procedure were agreed upon in June.

On 29 April 2003, Eurojust moved to its seat in The Hague. Shortly after its establishment, Eurojust faced the challenge of EU enlargement: in May 2004, ten new National Members joined the College, and in January 2007, two more were added, bringing the total number to 27. Since the enlargement, Eurojust has been active in negotiating cooperation agreements with third States and other EU agencies, allowing the exchange of judicial information and personal data. Agreements were concluded with Europol, Norway, Iceland, the USA, Croatia, OLAF, Switzerland, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Liaison prosecutors from Norway and the USA are now permanently based at Eurojust. In addition to cooperation agreements, Eurojust also maintains a network of contact points worldwide.

Since 2002, Eurojust has grown tremendously and so have its operational tasks and involvement in European judicial cooperation. More powers and a revised set of rules became necessary.

In July 2008, under the French Presidency, the European Council approved the new Council Decision on the Strengthening of Eurojust, which was ratified in December 2008 and published on 4 June 2009. The new Decision’s purpose is to enhance the operational capabilities of Eurojust, increase the exchange of information between the interested parties, facilitate and strengthen cooperation between national authorities and Eurojust, and strengthen and establish relationships with partners and third States.

The latest chapter in the development of Eurojust is contained in the Lisbon Treaty, namely in Chapter 4, Articles 85 and 86. Article 85 mentions Eurojust and defines its mission, “to support and strengthen coordination and cooperation between national investigating and prosecuting authorities in relation to serious crime affecting two or more Member States […]”. Article 86 states that, “in order to combat crimes affecting the financial interests of the Union, the Council, by means of regulations adopted in accordance with a special legislative procedure, may establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office from Eurojust".