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Recognition of decisions between EU countries

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Mutual recognition of judicial decisions is a process by which a decision usually taken by a judicial authority in one EU country is recognised, and where necessary, enforced by other EU countries as if it was a decision taken by the judicial authorities of the latter countries.

This is a key concept in the sphere of judicial cooperation, as it helps to overcome the difficulties stemming from the diversity of judicial systems throughout the EU.

Traditional judicial cooperation can be defined as an inter-state relation where one sovereign State makes a request to another sovereign State, which then decides whether or not to comply with it.

Those relations are organised through a variety of legal instruments, agreed either on a bilateral basis or within the framework of international organisations such as the UN or the Council of Europe.

This system is both slow and complex. It no longer corresponds to the reality of today's European area where people circulate easily, with few or no controls.

Improved cooperation

To a free circulation of people shall correspond a free circulation of judicial decisions. This is where the principle of mutual recognition leads to a real change in the philosophy of judicial cooperation. It means that each national judicial authority must recognise decisions made by the judicial authority of another EU country with a minimum of formalities, and with very few exceptions.

Enhanced mutual recognition is to improve the efficiency of cooperation between authorities. It is based on the mutual confidence that EU countries have in each others' systems, founded on the common respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms as asserted in the Treaty of the European Union.


In October 1999, at the Tampere European Council, mutual recognition was asserted to be the cornerstone of judicial cooperation.

In order to implement this principle, a programme of measures was adopted in January 2001. The implementation of this programme is one of the major challenges for the creation of a common area of justice.