Background

The European arrest warrant (EAW) allows for faster and simpler surrender procedures and an end to political involvement in extradition procedures. EU countries can no longer refuse to surrender their own citizens to another EU country, if the citizen has committed a serious crime or is suspected of having committed such a crime in another EU country.

Since the start of the EAW in 2004, people who have surrendered under the warrant included

  • a terrorist involved in Paris attacks caught in Belgium

  • an attacker of the Brussels Jewish Museum arrested in France

  • a failed London bomber caught in Italy

  • a German serial killer tracked down in Spain

  • a suspected drug smuggler from Malta surrendered by the UK

  • a gang of armed robbers sought by Italy whose members were arrested in 6 different EU countries

How does it work?

An EAW may be issued by a national judicial authority if

  • the sought person is accused of an offence for which the maximum penalty is at least 1 year of prison or
  • the sought person has been sentenced to a prison term of at least 4 months

Proportionality check

The judicial authorities in the EU country issuing the EAW should carry out a 'proportionality check'. The assessment includes considering the seriousness of the offence, the length of sentence and the costs and benefits of executing a EAW. It is important that the EAW is not misused for trivial offences.

Fair trials

The European Union works to guarantee a fair trial for people suspected or accused of a crime. The EU also adopted specific rules that guarantee the rights of persons sought under EAW. These rights include

  • the right to interpretation and translation during criminal proceedings
  • the right of suspects to be informed of their rights
  • the right to have access to a lawyer and the right of persons in custody to communicate with family members and employers
  • the right to legal aid

Handbook on how to issue and execute a EAW

The European Commission published a handbook on how to issue and execute a European arrest warrant, to facilitate and simplify the daily work of concerned judicial authorities. The handbook provides detailed guidance on the procedural steps for issuing and executing a EAW. The handbook also provides for a complete explanation of the major case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union interpreting particular provisions of the framework decision on EAW.