Eurojust, originally known as the European Judicial Cooperation Unit, is an EU agency tasked with promoting cooperation between the national authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes. A parallel agency, Europol (the European Police Office), promotes similar cooperation between the police forces of the member states.

The EU heads of government decided to create Eurojust in October 1999, as one of several important initiatives in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) taken at a meeting of the European Council in Tampere, Finland. Initially known as ‘Pro-Eurojust’, the agency was formally established by a decision of the Council of Ministers in February 2002 (since updated in June 2003 and December 2008) and was recognised by the 2001 Nice Treaty. Under the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in December 2009, Eurojust’s mission is now defined as being ‘to support and strengthen coordination and cooperation between national investigating and prosecuting authorities in relation to serious crime affecting two or more Member States or requiring a prosecution on common bases’ (Article 85 TFEU). To this end, it is able to draw on ‘operations conducted and information supplied by the Member States’ authorities and by Europol’. Like Europol, Eurojust is based in The Hague; its staff currently numbers 190 persons.

Eurojust is composed of 27 prosecutors, judges or police officers ‘of equivalent competence’ – one nominated by each member state – who meet together as a college. The agency may initiate criminal investigations and coordinate such investigations in the member states. It may also propose to national authorities that they bring prosecutions and coordinate such prosecutions. However, at the moment, Eurojust does not have the power to bring prosecutions itself – although, since the Lisbon Treaty, Article 86 TFEU permits the creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), to be located within Eurojust, which would ‘be responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment … the perpetrators of, and accomplices in, offences against the Union’s financial interests’, namely individuals defrauding the EU Budget. The Council of Ministers has yet to establish the EPPO, which it would need to do unanimously, with the consent of the European Parliament. Importantly, Article 86(4) TFEU now allows the European Council, acting on the same basis, to ‘extend the powers’ of the EPPO to include ‘serious crimes affecting more than one Member State’. If this were to occur, the EPPO could acquire the right to prosecute in many areas of serious crime.

The crimes falling within Eurojust’s ambit – including terrorism, money laundering, counterfeiting, and trafficking in drugs, arms and human beings – are essentially the same as those handled by Europol. To facilitate its work, Eurojust has entered into agreements with a number of third countries. Liaison officers from Norway and the United States are seconded to the Eurojust headquarters. Eurojust’s activities are overseen by a Joint Supervisory Body, composed of national judges. Eurojust also hosts the secretariat of the European Judicial Network – an EU-sponsored network of national contact-points responsible for international judicial cooperation – with which it works closely.

September 2012

Copyright: Anthony Teasdale, 2012

Citation: The Penguin Companion to European Union (2012), additional website entry

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