Actions and measures
Effective 12 March 2020, until further notice
The current COVID-19 crisis is a challenge for society and the judiciary across the European Union. Eurojust continues to be fully operational in assisting prosecutors in all Member States, ensuring that cross-border crime is tackled and decisive action is taken against criminals abusing the situation.
“Closed borders and lockdowns don’t stop criminals. They adapt quickly, and this is what we are witnessing now. Eurojust stands ready, as always, to combat cross-border crime regardless of the circumstances. This pandemic reinforces our conviction that the fight against organised crime calls for a profound digitalisation of judicial cooperation in criminal matters. It is solely because of digital solutions, such as videoconferencing and secure connections for information exchange, that Eurojust has been able to remain operational in the past months."
~ Ladislav Hamran, President of Eurojust, addressing European Ministers in the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council on 4 June 2020)
Impact of COVID-19 on judicial cooperation in criminal matters
Coordination meetings organised through Eurojust take place via secured video links, and Eurojust’s funding of joint investigation teams remains available.
Since March, Eurojust, in cooperation with the European Judicial Network, has collected information showing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on judicial cooperation. Given the rapidly evolving situation, the overview is updated on a weekly basis to continuously assist judicial authorities during these challenging times:
- The vast majority of Member States continue to issue European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) normally. In several Member States, the execution of the actual surrenders is being postponed to the end of the crisis.
- Some Member States have indicated that the issuing of European Investigation Orders (EIOs) or requests for mutual legal assistance (MLA) continues as usual, while in others the issuing of these instruments has decreased and is subject to prioritisation. In some cases, EIOs are being issued and translated, but their transmission to the executing Member State is affected, suspended or postponed, except when urgent. In many Member States, the execution of EIOs and MLA requests has been restricted to urgent cases and/or postponed.
- Many Member States have suspended the transfer of sentenced persons. Furthermore, in those Member States where the transfer of sentenced persons is still possible, an assessment is done on a case-by-case basis with urgent cases being prioritised.
- In many Member States, the situation is unchanged with respect to freezing and confiscation orders while some Member States are prioritising only urgent cases. However, this prioritisation does not usually affect freezing orders as they are generally regarded as urgent due to the risk of dissipation of assets.
- Joint investigation teams continue to operate regularly in most Member States, with the main difference that travel and physical meetings are not taking place but being replaced by electronic communication.
Click here for full executive summary (18/09/2020)
Some key stats on recent months of teleworking
From 1 April to 30 June, Eurojust registered 845 cases, of which 85 are COVID-19 related, and awarded 33 new grants to joint investigation teams.
Since lockdown restrictions were imposed in mid-March, 78 coordination meetings have been held and 6 coordination centres organised.
The EU Day Against Impunity, a plenary meeting of the European Judicial Cybercrime Network and an expert meeting jointly organised with European Union Intellectual Property Office took place virtually.
As chair of the JHA Agencies Network, we initiated a number of joint actions related to COVID-19.
12 recruitment procedures were initiated and 22 new colleagues were welcomed and integrated into the organisation.
To safeguard effective governance and efficient decision-making at Eurojust, including in exceptional circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, an amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Eurojust were published on 29 July 2020. These allow the Agency to take decisions by videoconference in exceptional circumstances.
This was a necessary step as the containment measures taken by Member States to curb the spread of COVID-19 made it very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the quorum of College members physically present at Eurojust during this period.
To view the Council Decision on the amendment to Eurojust's Rules of Procedure in all EU languages, click here.
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