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EU makes cross-border crime investigations easier

Judicial authorities asking their colleagues in another EU country to carry out investigations there, e.g. by searching houses or interviewing witnesses, should get a faster and more favourable response thanks to the new “European Investigation Order” (EIO) rules approved by European Parliament at the end of last week.

In a separate vote, MEPs also called for an overhaul of “European Arrest Warrant” rules which govern the extradition of suspects within the EU.

The EIO aims to make it easier for judicial authorities to request investigative measures and thereby obtain evidence in another EU country. Under the new rules, member states would have up to 30 days to decide whether or not to accept an EIO request. If accepted, there would then be a 90-day deadline for conducting the requested investigative measure. Any delay would have to be reported to the EU country issuing the EIO.

An EIO request could be refused only on specific grounds, e.g. if it could harm essential national security interests. It could also be refused if existing rules that restrict criminal liability to safeguard press freedom would make it impossible to execute it. Furthermore, MEPs inserted several provisions to protect suspects’ fundamental rights. For example, member states’ authorities may refuse an EIO request if they believe it would be incompatible with their fundamental rights obligations.

To enter into force, the EIO directive still needs for be formally endorsed by the Council of Ministers. Once approved, member states will have three years to transpose it into their national laws.

In a separate vote, Parliament called on the European Commission to table, within a year, legislative proposals to review the EAW rules. A resolution has been drafted and sets out detailed recommendations for the reform.

Despite its success in speeding up surrender procedures, MEPs say the system needs to be overhauled to better protect the procedural rights of suspected and accused persons, improve detention conditions, and prevent alleged overuse of EAWs by some member states. Between 2005 and 2009 54,689 EAWs were issued but only 11,630 were executed.

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