An overview of the work of Eurojust, a collaboration of EU prosecutors and judges, and its relationship with other law enforcement agencies

This year, 2007, is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome and the founding of the European Union. To mark the occasion, each member state contributed a piece of art to an exhibition in Rome. The result was fascinating. Wide ranging in style, the contributions seemed to reflect how states saw themselves and their relationship with the Union, and emphasised their different cultural traditions. Greece, Cyprus and Malta looked to their roots and were represented by precious statues preserved since early civilisation. In contrast, Portugal, the Netherlands and Luxembourg looked to the future with colourful pieces of modern art.

The UK displayed one of JMW Turner’s landscapes, an iconic embodiment of a bygone era. I admit that I felt let down by the UK’s “safe”, backward looking option. However, in a union that comprises 27 nations, 30 legal systems, 23 languages and 492.8 million individuals, this diversity of views is unsurprising; and choice is fundamental to the future of the EU. It is against this cosmopolitan, cultural, legal and political backdrop, that Eurojust was established.

What is Eurojust?

Eurojust is the world’s first, permanent, international judicial network for inter-jurisdictional co-operation, based in The Hague, Netherlands. It was set up by Framework Decision in 2002, “to deal more effectively with serious cross-border crime, particularly when it is organised, and involves two or more member states”.

Each member state nominates a representative who is a senior judge or prosecutor. The 27 national members comprise the college of Eurojust and are supported by an EU-funded administration. The national member for the United Kingdom, Mike Kennedy, is also the elected president of the college.

Eurojust aims to improve judicial co-operation, communication and co-ordination between member states in the investigation and prosecution of serious, organised, cross-border crime. It stimulates the exchange of information. Where appropriate, it also makes recommendations to the EU Commission’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee in relation to legal reform to improve mutual legal assistance and extradition/surrender arrangements.

Relationships with other agencies

The simplest way to understand the role of Eurojust is to consider its relationship with Europol, the European police office: Eurojust is to prosecution what Europol is to policing. They share some competences in terms of crimes investigated and work closely, both strategically and operationally, in a way that is mutually supportive.

The UK team at Eurojust comprises Mike Kennedy, national member; Aled Williams, deputy; Phil Hicks, assistant; Emma Forbes, Scottish assistant; and Christine McAlear, secretary.

Crown Office funds the Scottish assistant. Although an integral part of the UK team, the post holder has responsibility for the Scottish cases and advice on matters of Scots law. The post is co-located between Eurojust in The Hague and the International Co-operation Unit, Crown Office, Edinburgh.

Why is Eurojust needed?

Any Glasgow agent covering a trial in Oban, likewise any Grampian fiscal sent to Edinburgh, will be aware of the nuances of different court practices, court layouts, even dialects.

Those barriers are multiplied when borders are crossed: there is no homogeneous European criminal or procedural law. It may seem draconian that “police interview” translates into Lithuanian as “police interrogation”, and it may sit uneasily that the High Court in France will convict in absentia. However, most of the rest of Europe is aghast at the young age of criminality in Scotland.

The EU operates on the principal of mutual recognition, not harmonisation. Thus, member states must recognise and, crucially, understand the different laws in other EU states. The national members at Eurojust are not only qualified and experienced practitioners in their own legal systems; they also share advanced language skills. While English is the working language, all staff speak at least two languages.

“Arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity” Kofi Annan

In this age of widespread access to the internet and cheap air travel, organised crime groups easily abuse the free movement enjoyed within the EU. Criminal investigations into drugs trafficking, terrorism and money laundering increasingly contain an international element. Additionally, there are new challenges in human trafficking, cyber crime and carousel fraud. Facilitation of investigations and prosecutions of cross-border crime is a growth area, and Eurojust deals with an increase in caseload each year. Eurojust opened 588 new cases in 2005 and 771 in 2006. The UK introduced 121 new cases in 2005 and 148 in 2006. By the end of July 2007, 652 new cases had already been opened.

How does Eurojust work?

Eurojust works simply and effectively. It has the power to make formal recommendations to member states in relation to primacy of jurisdiction and double jeopardy, and it can also provide advice and recommendations in terms of the application of the European arrest warrant. However, it has no power to compel or direct a member state: it can merely encourage and make requests to member states. Eurojust’s role is one of persuasion, mediation, co-ordination and facilitation.

The college of Eurojust meets twice weekly. The national members are equal, take decisions jointly, and collectively they comprise the college of Eurojust. Cases are mainly progressed by facilitating co-ordination meetings at Eurojust for prosecutors and investigators from the member states involved. Simultaneous translation and hi-tech presentation facilities are available, and national members are on hand to provide advice and expertise.

These meetings are used, for example, to plan simultaneous house searches or arrests in different countries. Such meetings are effective, but national stereotypes do apply: undoubtedly, meetings hosted by a Mediterranean country, offering a superior, long lunch are most popular! This is fondly attributed to their more relaxed approach. In reality, some of the opportunity for discussion and co-operation between countries is lost in the quick sandwich lunch offered by the Germans and the British.

More broadly, Eurojust also has a developing advisory role within the EU and has teams that focus on wide ranging topics. For example, the UK is represented on the following teams: Europol; fraud; Brussels; terrorism; trafficking and related crimes; implementation of the European arrest warrant; and the Presidency team.


“To be the key player, and a centre of excellence, at a judicial level for effective action against organised cross-border crime in the EU”

Concerted approach

Perhaps I was wrong about the UK’s contribution to the exhibition in Rome. Today’s Europe is certainly different to the romantic landscapes depicted by Turner. But this master, this “painter of light”, was an experimenter, avant-garde and revolutionary in his style and approach. He broke the mould and shaped the development of modern art across Europe. Thus, perhaps the UK contribution to the exhibition was a positive affirmation of the EU after all. Certainly, the extent of UK representation at Eurojust illustrates a commitment to a concerted EU approach to judicial co-operation.

Specifically, Scotland takes full and active involvement in the organisation, by virtue of its permanent representation there. Further, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency now has a liaison officer at the UK desk at Europol to collaborate closely with the Scottish assistant at Eurojust. It is hoped that this relationship in Europe will mirror the police/prosecutor relationship in Scotland.

Eurojust is a valuable tool for investigators and prosecutors in the fight against serious, organised, cross-border crime. Its vision is clear, but its impact will only be optimised if practitioners across the EU’s 30 legal systems understand its role and can use Eurojust effectively.

Emma Forbes is a procurator fiscal depute, currently seconded to Eurojust. The views expressed in this article are her own and do not represent the views of COPFS or the Scottish Executive


Operation Pachtou was a people trafficking case which brought together a series of investigations involving four EU member states and Turkey. Investigations in France and the UK showed that a sophisticated network was moving people from the Kurdish areas of Turkey through Greece into Italy and from there to France and the UK. Eurojust enquiries revealed that separate investigations into the same network were also taking place in Italy, Greece and Turkey. A co-ordination meeting at Eurojust was attended by police, investigators, judges and prosecutors from each of the five states involved. Information was exchanged and the links between the different parts of the network become much clearer.

A series of arrests and house and other searches were arranged and co-ordinated for the same day in all five countries. The network was dismantled when 82 co-ordinated arrests took place across Europe: in Turkey (3), in Greece (2), in Italy (21), in France (49), and in the UK (7). Following a further co-ordination meeting at Eurojust, European arrest warrants were issued by France to the UK and those arrested in the UK were transferred to France to allow prosecution there.

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