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Eurojust-ERA conference – Operational Achievements and Future Challenges

21/11/2012

On 12 and 13 November 2012, Eurojust and the Academy of European Law (ERA) hosted a conference in The Hague on the operational achievements and future challenges of Eurojust after its first 10 years

A first decade of steadily increasing activities has made Eurojust the leading body for the promotion of judicial cooperation by effectively coordinating operational judicial activities in the European Union. Entering a new decade, Eurojust, in cooperation with the Academy of European Law, took the opportunity to reflect on its operational achievements and future challenges.

The conference brought together judicial authorities, ministry officials, EU representatives from the Council, Commission and Parliament, academics and present and former Eurojust National Members. Key topics discussed were the impact of Council Decision 2009/426/JHA of 16 December 2008 on the strengthening of Eurojust, the expectations from the forthcoming Commission proposal for a new draft Regulation on Eurojust, the prospects for a European Public Prosecutor’s Office established from Eurojust, and cooperation with other EU bodies and third States.

The conference’s opening speech was given by Ms Michèle Coninsx, President of Eurojust, followed by introductory remarks by Prof. Jörg Monar, Director of Political and Administrative Studies at the College of Europe. Over 30 high-level speakers took the floor, amongst them Mr Juan Fernando Lόpez Aguilar, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE Committee), Mrs Alexandra Jour-Schroeder, Head of Unit of the Criminal Law section within the European Commission, Mr Hans Nilsson, Head of Unit of the Fundamental Rights and Criminal Justice section within the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, Mr Giovanni Kessler, Director General of OLAF, and Mr Oldrich Martinu, Deputy Director of Europol.

Through the Lisbon Treaty, in particular Articles 85 and 86 TFEU, Eurojust may acquire the powers it needs to fully accomplish the mission to which it has been entrusted: to stimulate and improve coordination and cooperation between competent judicial authorities of the Member States.

To achieve this goal and to allow Eurojust to work at its full potential, participants argued that the awareness of Eurojust’s role should be raised to enhance a regular information flow towards Eurojust from the Member States and highlighted the need for appropriate trainings for practitioners in this context. To further encourage such information exchange, current safeguards on the disclosure of case-related information should be refined by finding the right balance between the principle of transparency and the confidentiality of case-related data, taking into account the mandate and tasks of Eurojust as a judicial body.

Eurojust will continue to work in close cooperation with its partners, such as Europol, OLAF and the European Judicial Network, each with its specific role to play in the pursuit of a European area of freedom, security and justice.

Since criminal activities affecting the European Union are increasingly less confined to boundaries, the need was stressed to continue enhancing cooperation with third States. Any future EU cooperation agreement with a third State should therefore carefully consider the judicial aspects. The possibility for Eurojust to continue its direct involvement in negotiating such cooperation agreements should be reflected upon.

The improvement of Eurojust’s governance structure was also emphasized as an essential prerequisite for enhancing Eurojust’s efficiency and readiness for future challenges, including the setting up of the EPPO from Eurojust. To this end, introducing a clear distinction amongst supervisory, executive and operational roles, ensuring the concept of sound management, was felt necessary. Equal emphasis was given to the need for safeguarding the independence and responsibility of the National Members regarding casework.

Participants exchanged views on Article 86 TFEU, which provides the basis for the establishment of the EPPO from Eurojust. Indeed, Eurojust will have a pivotal role to play in the future EPPO and in the relations with the national judicial authorities of the Member States and with those of third States. Despite its vertical nature, the future EPPO will have to work within the current horizontal framework of cooperation and coordination. Therefore, both the legal framework and the practical experience of Eurojust should be taken into account. Coherent and complementary solutions must be found to develop synergies between Eurojust and the EPPO and to optimise resources, to step up the fight against transnational crime and the protection of the financial interests of the European Union.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Academy of European Law (ERA) is a non-profit public foundation established in 1992 on the initiative of the European Parliament and supported by the European Union and its Member States. ERA’s mission is to provide training in European law to judges, prosecutors, lawyers in private practice, in-house counsel, law enforcement officers, lawyers in public administration and other legal practitioners: www.era.int.

Eurojust was formally established by a 2002 Council Decision as the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit. Its mission is to stimulate and improve coordination and cooperation amongst the competent judicial authorities of the Member States in relation to serious cross-border and organised crime.