Eurojust and COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis has been a challenge for society and the judiciary across the European Union.

Throughout the pandemic, Eurojust continued 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.

Read below how Eurojust provided its full range of support to national authorities in the different stages of the crisis.

Eurojust and COVID-19

Operational continuity

  • Eurojust continued its operations and delivered undiminished support to the national authorities in the Member States, including coordination meetings (most of which were held via videoconference), coordination centres and joint investigation teams. Among the thousands of case opened by the Agency, several were directly related to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • In some of these cases, Member States asked Eurojust’s support in specific COVID-19-related offences such as fraud related to the selling of face masks. In other cases, Eurojust has intervened to facilitate the execution of judicial cooperation instruments, such as European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) and European Investigation Orders (EIOs), impacted by the application of the COVID-19-related measures.
Publication cover

The Impact of COVID-19 on Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters: Analysis of Eurojust Casework

View report

Guidance support

  • To further support practitioners, in April 2020, the Council gave a mandate to Eurojust and the European Judicial Network (EJN) to prepare a compilation of all information collected on the impact on judicial cooperation in criminal matters of measures taken in the Member States, Iceland and Norway to combat the spread of COVID-19. The report analysed the main practical and legal issues arising from the current COVID-19 crisis as reported by the national authorities. This compilation was updated at least every two weeks and published as a Council document [LIMITE].
  • The COVID-19 crisis had a considerable impact on the application of all judicial cooperation instruments. The execution of judicial cooperation requests that require cross-border movement or physical presence of persons – such as EAWs and the extradition and transfer of sentenced persons – had been most affected. This was mainly caused by the closure of borders and cancellation of flights.
  • The restriction of physical movement led most States to rely on alternative digital solutions, such as email or videoconferencing, for the execution of requests for judicial cooperation. In this way, for example, the hearing of persons could take place via a videoconference. Requests and procedural documents could be transmitted electronically. The COVID-19 crisis has shown even more clearly that digitalising the way investigators, prosecutors and judges work together is the future of judicial cooperation in criminal matters for a safe and just Europe.
  • Eurojust also developed Guidelines on Operational Support during the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate the execution of its core business activities during the physical restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 crisis. The guidelines covered, in particular, the use of secure videoconferencing systems to allow prosecutors to still meet under the auspices of Eurojust and discuss cooperation strategies on common cases during the pandemic.
  • In May 2021, Eurojust published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on its casework, based on the analysis of specific cases registered during the period from April 2020 to 30 June 2020.

Events and activities

Cross-border crimes related to the COVID-19 crisis

  • Eurojust supported several cases that presented issues related to the COVID-19 crisis. Travel restrictions and risks presented challenges to judicial cooperation. Organised crime groups adapted quickly to changing environments and to technological progress, and they managed to profit from the circumstances of the pandemic in various areas. Coordinated action by law enforcement and judicial actors, however, stopped crimes such as ransomware attacks against hospitals.

Impact on judicial cooperation

Publication cover

The Impact of COVID-19 on Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters: Analysis of Eurojust Casework

View report

During the pandemic, the majority of coordination meetings organised through Eurojust took place via secured video links, and Eurojust’s funding of joint investigation teams remained available.

From the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurojust’s casework showed that practitioners in the Member States were facing various difficulties in dealing with cases involving judicial cooperation in criminal matters. In May 2021, Eurojust published the report The Impact of COVID-19 on Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters, which identified the specific difficulties in the application of the most commonly used instruments of judicial cooperation that resulted from the pandemic. Moreover, the report identified the most frequently committed crimes that were directly linked to the pandemic. It also described the role of Eurojust in relation to these issues and provided summaries of best practices.

The report complemented the Joint Eurojust-EJN Compilation on the impact of COVID-19 on judicial cooperation in criminal matters, which focused on the measures taken by the Member States to combat the spread of the virus and their impact on judicial cooperation in general terms. From March 2020 to January 2022, this overview was updated on a weekly basis in cooperation with the European Judicial Network to continuously assist judicial authorities during challenging times. The last issue was published on 21 January 2022 (full executive summary).

Rules of Procedure

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 was published on 29 July 2020. This allows 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.

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