European Arrest Warrant

European Arrest Warrant

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is a simplified cross-border judicial surrender procedure which is applied in all Member States of the European Union. The EAW is issued by a judicial authority in a first Member State (issuing Member State) to a judicial authority in a second requested Member State (executing Member State) for the purposes of a criminal prosecution or the execution of a custodial sentence.

Introduced in January 2004, the EAW is based on the principle of mutual recognition and is founded on trust and direct contact among the judicial authorities of the Member States. Replacing previous extradition tools that required political involvement, the instrument allows for faster and simpler surrender procedures by setting strict time limits for surrendering suspects and convicted persons, providing practitioners with a single standard form and establishing limited possibilities for refusal by the executing State.

Eurojust’s role

As part of Eurojust’s mission to strengthen judicial cooperation, the Agency plays a crucial role in the application of the EAW, supporting the use of many hundreds of EAWs by national authorities each year. Eurojust improves mutual understanding of Member States’ legal systems and stimulates and facilitates consultation between judicial authorities, and coordinates and provides national authorities with relevant legal information and translations.

Eurojust’s expertise helps prevent or resolve issues by identifying best practice and offering solutions, thus speeding up the execution of EAWs. Eurojust helps to resolve challenges, uncertainties and disputes relating to the application of the EAW and the EAW process.

In addition, Eurojust can provide non-binding advice concerning competing EAWs (Article 16 EAW Framework Decision), including through the Eurojust Guidelines for deciding on competing requests for surrender and extradition. These Guidelines are a flexible tool to guide and remind the competent authorities of the factors they can consider when deciding which request to execute (first). The Guidelines were updated in October 2019 and can be accessed here.

Further, Eurojust must be informed in cases when a Member State (in exceptional circumstances) cannot observe the time limits (Article 17 EAW Framework Decision). Further information on the transmission of information to Eurojust is provided here.

Common challenges arising from the EAW process and requiring Eurojust’s support include:

  • questions regarding the scope and suitability of the EAW as the most appropriate judicial instrument;
  • questions on the proportional use of EAWs;
  • need for clarifications and additional information;
  • questions related to translations;
  • incomplete or contradictory EAWs, or EAWs containing discrepancies;
  • non-recognition or refusal of the EAW by executing authorities; for example, on the basis of allegations of breach of fundamental rights due to prison conditions or the length of pre-trial detention;
  • issues relating to the surrender procedure for suspected criminals, including delays in the execution of EAWs and breaches of time limits;
  • issues arising from the transmission of EAWs, including variations in national time limits for the transmission of the EAW following an arrest of the person sought or its translation; and
  • issues arising from competing EAWs. Further information on this issue is available on the following web page.

By analysing cases and discussing the issues and challenges involved, Eurojust has established a knowledge base that allows:

  • the legal requirements of both the issuing and executing national laws to be clarified;
  • advice to be provided prior to drafting EAWs;
  • reporting to be carried out of breaches of time limits;
  • lines of communication to be established between national authorities; and
  • the fast exchange of information between national authorities.

Further information

In addition to the Guidelines for deciding on competing requests for surrender and extradition (available here), Eurojust has developed information to help practitioners in the application of EAW cases. The document Case Law by the Court of Justice of the European Union on the EAW (available here) offers practitioners an overview of relevant judgments in the field of the EAW. Further, the Reports on Eurojust’s Casework in the field of the EAW (the most recent of which is available here) provide useful insight in challenges encountered in Eurojust cases and offer examples of best practices to prevent and/or overcome difficulties in the execution of EAWs. Moreover, Eurojust published a Questionnaire on the CJEU’s judgments in relation to the independence of issuing judicial authorities and effective judicial protection (available here).