Interview with International Association of Prosecutors

09 June 2020|NEWS

Eurojust President focuses on combatting crime on global scale

Eurojust President, Mr Ladislav Hamran, was recently interviewed for the newsletter of the International Association of Prosecutors, in which he focused on combatting crime on a global scale. Please read the full interview here:

How is Eurojust coping with the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in the Netherlands, the vast majority of Eurojust colleagues have been working from home. I have to say that I am incredibly proud of how we continue to be fully operational, despite the challenging circumstances. While prosecutors from all over the world used to meet face to face in our premises in The Hague, we now bring them together in a virtual way through videoconferencing.

Unfortunately, we do see that criminals are quick to seize opportunities to exploit this crisis. In Germany, for instance, the authorities uncovered a large-scale fraud involving ten million face masks for a price of EUR 15 million. An advance payment of EUR 2.4 million was made, but on the day of the planned delivery in The Netherlands the masks were nowhere to be found. Thanks to the active support of the German desk at Eurojust and three other countries, two suspects have been arrested and EUR 2 million in assets have been frozen. We see more and more of these cases, but we are committed to ensure that justice is done under all circumstances.

Please tell us about your background and what inspired you to become a prosecutor

I have always wanted to become rich and famous, and travel around in fancy, chauffeured cars. I am only joking of course. The profession of prosecutor in Slovakia in mid-90´s was neither glamorous nor lucrative. It was a mere coincidence that I ended up in the prosecution service, where I was lucky enough to meet many colleagues who inspired me and whom I admired for fighting for a more fair society. I never regretted the decision to become a prosecutor, as I believe that there are few things more rewarding than dedicating your professional life to helping victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.

You are the President of Eurojust and Eurojust is an organisational member of the IAP and we have strong links professionally. How can Eurojust and the IAP strengthen their links to improve and enhance international cooperation?

I am aware that the level of judicial cooperation we have achieved in the EU is unprecedented. I sincerely hope that our model will form a blueprint for similar cooperation in other continents, making it easier for judicial authorities to join forces at a global level. The IAP offers Eurojust a platform to share our experience - for example during the IAP's Annual Meeting that we are always honored to attend.

When it comes to the cooperation between both organisations, it is also important to highlight that Eurojust's work does not stop at the borders of the EU. In fact, since 2015 we have witnessed a 74% increase in the number of cases at Eurojust involving a non-EU state. On several occasions, the IAP's direct access to a global network of prosecutors made a crucial difference in our efforts to connect jurisdictions from in- and outside the EU.

In the coming years, Eurojust aims to keep expanding its network of judicial contact points in non-EU States, which currently covers 52 countries. I hope and expect that throughout this process, we will continue to benefit from the synergies between the work of the IAP and that of Eurojust. We are in the fortunate position that many of the highly valued colleagues at Eurojust also play an important role within the IAP. Han Moraal, National Member for The Netherlands at Eurojust, is the IAP's Secretary General. Josip Cule is National Member for Croatia and the IAP's Vice-President. Paris Adamis is National Member for Greece and member of the IAP's Executive Committee. And Gerhard Jarosch is National Member for Austria and the former President of the IAP. This ensures that the strong bond between the IAP and Eurojust is not only institutional, but also personal.

In terms of international cooperation, what in your view and your experience is the most important thing an individual prosecutor can bring to the table to contribute to the development of international cooperation?

When it comes to international judicial cooperation, the single most important trait somebody can bring to the table is the ability to respect diversity. We all come from different legal systems, with different laws, customs, traditions and practices. It is crucial that we find a way to bridge the gap between us, and this can only be done if we are willing to let go of the idea that our own approach is the only way forward. We have to make the conscious decision to work together despite of our differences. That means respecting each other's sovereignty and being open to compromise. It means acknowledging that we may have different ways of working, but all share the same ambition of protecting our citizens and making this world a safer place.

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing prosecutors in a global context?

I believe that further globalisation is inevitable. It will not only lead to an increasing interconnectedness in the political, economic and cultural domain, but also have a significant impact on how easily criminals join forces and what we can do to stop them. Together with key partners such as the IAP, Eurojust will continue to unite prosecutors and judges from all over the world. Our goal is to carefully cultivate trust amongst them, with full respect for each other's national jurisdictions and legal traditions.

Another main challenge lies in digitalisation, which is profoundly affecting the criminal justice field. On a global level, cybercrime is the most rapidly expanding form of organised crime. Becoming a victim of cybercrime is no longer a remote risk and geopolitical tensions may well have repercussions for our virtual security. But digitalisation is not just a catalyst of cross-border crime, it is also part of the solution. The coming year will be decisive for Eurojust's Digital Criminal Justice initiative, with which we aim to give prosecutors across the EU the modern digital tools they need to work together even better.

If you could give one piece of advice to young prosecutors embarking on their career, what would that be?

Becoming a prosecutor in this day and age means that you will almost certainly deal with cases of a cross-border nature. As I mentioned earlier, this requires the ability to respect diversity and maintain an open mind. More in general, you have to be prepared for the high pressure that comes with this job. You will face long hours, conflicting interests and disappointment when you realise that justice does not always prevail in the way you thought it would. At the end of the day, what matters most is being able to look in the mirror, knowing that you kept your back straight and did the right thing.

Photo © Eurojust