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Mutual Recognition in European Judicial Cooperation: A Step Too Far Too Soon? Case Study—the European Arrest Warrant

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The European arrest warrant (EAW) is the first and most striking example of the extensive judicial cooperation in criminal matters that is beginning to take place in the European Union. Replacing traditional extradition between EU member states, including the ten accession countries after May 2004, it will operate on the basis of mutual recognition of judicial decisions, thus taking extradition decisions out of the hands of politicians. It rests on the presumption that criminal justice systems are equivalent throughout the EU and that the rights of the defence, in particular, are safeguarded adequately and in a comparable way EU-wide. However, before the EAW has even been implemented, a number of practical problems are beginning to emerge, in particular in relation to the protection of individual rights and legal certainty in the European judicial space. The way in which these problems are tackled will be a litmus test of the respect for fundamental rights across the EU in the field of justice and home affairs. This article highlights the problems inherent in the rapid development of the principle of mutual recognition and suggests ways in which these problems can be addressed allowing for full protection of fundamental rights within a fully functioning European area of freedom, security, and justice. The EAW will be used to illustrate the prominent features of the emerging landscape of judicial cooperation in criminal matters, providing as it does the most radical example of developments in this field so far and their implications for fundamental rights.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2004


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