Ministers boost EU judicial cooperation

Justice and home affairs ministers agreed on 27 September to set up an EU-wide judicial cooperation network called “Eurojust”. The network of prosecuters will coordinate cross-border co-operation in investigations into crimes such as terrorism and money laundering. Eurojust should be up and running by early 2002.

The justice and home affairs ministers agreed the composition and competence of Eurojust at their meeting. It will include a prosecutor from each Member State and have authority in cases of cross-border terrorism, cybercrime, money laundering, corruption, environmental and organised crime.

Some commentators view the creation of Eurojust as a significant step towards the creation of a European prosecutors office. Its jurisdiction is similar to the Hague-based Europol which a number of Member States are keen to turn into a true European police force.

The recent terrorist attacks in the US have gone some way towards unlocking the deadlock that had existed in progress towards creating closer judicial cooperation in the EU. However, it must be emphasised that whilst all Member States are keen to increase the efficiency of judicial and police cooperation in the fight against terrorism in particular, barriers remain.

The large differences in the Member States respective legal systems and opposition from a number of them to ceding too much power to centralised European judicial or police authorities mean that progress is only likely to go so far.

 

The Eurojust concept has its roots in the justice and home affairs agenda of the Finnish presidency of 1999. A provisional Eurojust organisation was set up in December last year and has been working out of Brussels since 1 March 2001. It has been coordinating cross-border criminal investigations in the EU on terrorism, money laundering, drugs, fraud and murder.

 

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