Help Print this page 
Title and reference
European arrest warrant

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
Languages and formats available
BG ES CS DA DE ET EL EN FR GA HR IT LV LT HU MT NL PL PT RO SK SL FI SV
HTML html ES html CS html DA html DE html EL html EN html FR html IT html HU html NL html PL html PT html RO html FI html SV
Multilingual display
Text

European arrest warrant

The European Union's framework decision on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between EU countries simplifies and speeds up procedures whereby EU citizens who have committed a serious crime in another EU country can be returned to that country to face justice.

ACT

Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States.

SUMMARY

The European arrest warrant adopted in 2002, replaces the extradition system by requiring each national judicial authority (the executing judicial authority) to recognise and execute, with a minimum of formalities and within strict time-limits, requests for the surrender of a person made by the judicial authority of another EU country (the issuing judicial authority). The framework decision entered into force on 1 January 2004 and replaced previous EU legislation in this area.

EU countries, however, are free to apply and conclude bilateral or multilateral agreements so long as these agreements help to simplify or further facilitate the surrender procedures.

General principles

The framework decision defines European arrest warrant as any judicial decision issued by an EU country with a view to the arrest or surrender by another EU country of a requested person, for the purposes of:

  • conducting a criminal prosecution;
  • executing a custodial sentence or detention order.

Application

The warrant applies in the following cases:

  • for offences punishable by imprisonment or a detention order for a maximum period of at least 1 year;
  • where a final sentence of imprisonment or a detention order has been imposed for a period of at least 4 months.

Surrender may be subject to the condition that the act for which surrender is requested is an offence under the law of the executing EU country (double criminality rule).

However, if they are punishable in the issuing EU country by a custodial sentence of at least 3 years, the following offences, among others, may give rise to surrender without verification of the double criminality of the act: terrorism, trafficking in human beings, corruption, participation in a criminal organisation, counterfeiting currency, murder, racism and xenophobia, rape, trafficking in stolen vehicles, and fraud, including that affecting the EU's financial interests.

The European arrest warrant must contain information on the identity of the person concerned, the issuing judicial authority, the final judgment, the nature of the offence, the penalty, etc. (a specimen form is attached to the framework decision).

Procedures

As a general rule, the issuing authority transmits the European arrest warrant directly to the executing judicial authority. Provision is made for cooperation with the Schengen Information System (SIS) and with Interpol. If the authority of the executing Member State is not known, the issuing Member State will receive assistance from the European Judicial Network and Eurojust.

All EU countries should ensure that their use of the warrant is proportionate. In other words, they must take into consideration the gravity of the offence, the sentence and the costs and benefits of executing the warrant. When an individual is arrested, he/she must be made aware of the contents of the arrest warrant.

3 Directives on procedural rights adopted since 2010 will ensure that persons who are the subject of a European arrest warrant are entitled to the services of a lawyer and an interpreter and must receive information on their rights.

A further 3 Directives were proposed by the Commission in November 2013. These will also, once adopted, improve the European arrest warrant regime, notably in legal aid proceedings.

In all cases, the executing authority may decide to keep the individual in custody or to release him/her subject to certain conditions.

Pending a decision, the executing authority (in accordance with national law) hears the person concerned. The executing judicial authority must take a final decision on execution of the European arrest warrant no later than 60 days after the arrest. If the arrested person decides to consent to his or her surrender, a final decision on execution of the warrant must be taken within a period of 10 days after the consent has been given.

Grounds for refusal to execute a warrant and refusal to surrender

An EU country must refuse to execute a European arrest warrant if:

  • final judgment has already been passed by an EU country upon the requested person in respect of the same offence (ne bis in idem principle, i.e. no-one may be prosecuted or convicted twice for the same facts or the same punishable conduct);
  • the offence is covered by an amnesty in the executing Member State;
  • the person concerned may not be held criminally responsible by the executing State owing to his/her age.

In certain other circumstances (e.g. when criminal prosecution or punishment is statute-barred - i.e. it cannot be brought to court because too much time has passed - according to the law of the executing EU country or when a final judgment has been passed by another country in respect of the same act), the executing EU country may refuse to execute the arrest warrant. It may also refuse to execute the warrant if the person concerned did not personally appear at the trial where the decision was rendered, unless the appropriate safeguards were taken. In all cases, reasons for the refusal must be given to the issuing country.

On presentation of certain information (relating to the arrest warrant, the nature of the offence, the identity of the person concerned, etc.), each EU country must permit the transit through its territory of a requested person who is being surrendered.

The warrant is translated into the official language of the executing EU country and sent by any means capable of producing written records and allowing the executing country to establish its authenticity.

Further information available from Directorate-General for Justice's website.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA

7.8.2002

31.12.2003

OJ L 190, 18.7.2002

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Framework Decision 2009/299/JHA

28.3.2009

28.3.2011

OJ L 81 of 27.3.2009

RELATED ACTS

Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings (Official Journal L 280 of 26.10.2010).

Directive 2012/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the right to information in criminal proceedings (Official Journal L 142 of 1.6.2012).

Directive 2013/48/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty. (Official Journal L 294 of 6.11.2013).

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 11 April 2011 on the implementation since 2007 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States ( COM(2011) 175 final - Not published in the Official Journal).

This report describes 7 years of implementation of the European arrest warrant. The initiative seems to be a success in operational terms 54,689 warrants have been issued and 11,630 executed. Extradition between EU countries now takes fourteen to seventeen days, if the person consents to their transfer, and forty-eight days if they do not give consent. Previously, this process took more than one year. By using this mechanism to ensure that the opening of borders does not assist those seeking to avoid the application of the law, the free movement of persons in the EU has been strengthened. The Commission notes some shortcomings, however, particularly with regard to respect for fundamental rights. It requests that Member States should bring their legislation into line with Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA where that is not already the case, and implement instruments already adopted in order to improve the functioning of the warrant. The report also notes that too many warrants are issued for minor offences and encourages requesting Member States to apply the principle of proportionality.

Report from the Commission of 24 January 2006 based on Article 34 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States (revised version) [ COM(2006) 8 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

In its revised version, the report focuses above all on the Italian legislation adopted since the first report. The Commission considers that, despite the initial delay, the European arrest warrant is operational in most of the cases provided for by the Member States.

Report from the Commission of 23 February 2005 based on Article 34 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States [ COM(2005) 63 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

According to the evaluation made by the Commission in its report, the impact of the European arrest warrant since its entry into force on 1 January 2004 has been positive both in terms of depoliticisation and effectiveness as well as in terms of the speed of the surrender procedure, while the fundamental rights of the persons concerned have been observed.

Statements provided for in Article 31(2) of Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedure between Member States [Official Journal L 246 of 29.9.2003].

Denmark, Finland and Sweden state that their uniform legislation in force allows the provisions of the framework decision to be extended and enlarged. They will continue to apply the uniform legislation in force between them, namely:

  • Denmark: Nordic Extradition Act (Act No 27 of 3 February 1960, as amended);
  • Finland: Nordic Extradition Act (270/1960);
  • Sweden: Act (1959:254) concerning extradition to Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway for criminal offences.

Last updated: 29.04.2014

Top