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Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

A criminal policy to enforce EU rules and help protect taxpayers' money


In a policy Communication published today, the European Commission sets out the conditions under which the Union and member states can work together to put in place a coherent and consistent EU criminal policy. This will enable the Union to define if, when and how to use criminal law to better enforce a policy.

The new legal framework created by the Lisbon Treaty provides the tools for this, said Vice-President Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, adding "it also establishes clear limits and checks: nothing can be decided without the full democratic control of the European Parliament and an oversight by national parliaments that have an important voice in the decision-making process."

Fighting crime was cited as a top priority for Europeans when asked where the EU should focus its action in the coming years, and the total cost of crime to society as a whole is estimated at €233 billion a year in the EU. A clearly defined criminal policy can help ensure that EU-wide rules in important policy areas are respected, such as protecting the environment, preventing the manipulation of financial markets including insider trading, or safeguarding taxpayers' money from fraud against the EU budget.

Important guiding criteria exist in the field of EU criminal policy. These list criminal law as being a measure of last resort, reserved only for particularly serious offences, and specify that any new legislation for it must strictly respect fundamental rights.

Commissioner Reding outlined the need for a balanced and coherent approach towards criminal law policy in March 2010. A 2009 Manifesto on EU Criminal Policy by an academic group came to the same conclusion.