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New rules and guarantees in #CriminalProceedings now apply across the EU



The directive on special safeguards for children now applies. It is the last in a set of six EU directives guaranteeing procedural rights for people across the EU, completing the full set of rights.

In addition to these new rights for children, the directive guaranteeing access to legal aid started to apply on 5 May. This package of EU rules ensures that EU citizens' fundamental rights of fair and equal treatment are respected in criminal proceedings and that they are applied in a similar way in all member states.

Frans Timmermans, first vice president in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, said: "Every year, 9 million people are involved in criminal proceedings in Europe. A well-functioning rule of law must ensure that every European can depend on getting a fair and equal treatment before the law. We need to continue to defend and nourish our rule of law so as to foster unwavering faith in our justice systems and their ability to protect all our citizens and our societies.”

Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Věra Jourová added: “Children deserve special protection in criminal proceedings. With the new rules, we ensure that their privacy is respected or they are detained separately from adults. In addition, everyone in the EU can now be sure to have access to legal aid if they need it. While justice must be done, we must also ensure it is being done in full respect of our fundamental rights and values."

The following rights now apply:

  • Special safeguards for children -Every year in the EU, over 1 million children face criminal justice proceedings. Children are vulnerable and need special protection at all stages of the proceedings. With the new rules applying as of today, children should be assisted by a lawyer and detained separately from adults if sent to prison. Privacy must be respected and questioning should be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.
  • The right to legal aidIf suspected or accused, people have the right to legal aid, that is, financial support for example if they do not have the resources to cover the costs of the proceedings.

The EU rules define clear criteria to grant legal aid. Decisions concerning legal aid must be taken timely and diligently, and people must be informed in writing if their application is rejected in full or in part.

These rights complement the other rights that already apply in the EU:

  • The right to be presumed innocent and to be present at trialThe concept of presumption of innocence exists in all EU member states, but the EU rules ensure that this right is applied equally across the EU. The rules clarify that the burden of proof for establishing guilt is on the prosecution, rather than on the person accused to prove that they are not guilty.
  • The right to have a lawyerIf suspected or accused, no matter where the person is in the EU, they have the right to be advised by a lawyer. A right of access to a lawyer applies also in European Arrest Warrant proceedings, both in the Member State that executes it and in the Member State where it has been issued.
  • The right to informationPeople must be promptly informed about the criminal act they are suspected or accused of. They also must be promptly informed of their rights in criminal proceedings, either orally or in writing. They must be given access to the materials of the case.
  • The right to interpretation and translation Interpretation must be provided free of charge during any questioning, including by police, all court hearings and any necessary interim hearings, as well as during essential meetings between you and your lawyer.

Next steps

Member states that have not yet implemented the rules must do so as soon as possible. The European Commission will continue to work closely with Member States to ensure the rules are applied correctly for the benefit of citizens. This can be done including through workshops and expert meetings.


Articles 47-49 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights protect the following rights:

The European Commission proposed the most recent three of these directives on procedural rights for suspects and accused persons in November 2013.

The two directives on the right to interpretation and translation and on the right to information apply to all Member States, except Denmark. The other four directives (access to lawyer, presumption of innocence, right to legal aid, and safeguards for children) apply to all member states, except Ireland, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

More information                                                       

Factsheet – your rights if accused or suspected of criminal offences in the EU


BBC Hardtalk clash highlights concerns over EU’s Romanian Prosecutor Laura Kovesi



BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur is known for his robust interview style and his command of any subject he chooses to tackle. Observers in Bucharest, Brussels and across Europe watched with interest as he questioned Laura Kovesi, the European Union’s Chief Prosecutor, one year into her tenure in this new role. It seems widely acknowledged that she did not stand up well to his sharp interrogation when he quizzed her on her controversial track record in Romania.

The interview, which took place over video-conference with Kovesi on screen from her Luxembourg base, questioned whether Ms Kovesi had been successful in her previous role at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) in Romania, but the biggest sting was delivered when Sackur accused Kovesi of having “pushed the envelope” in terms of the legality of her Romanian investigations.

Sackur said to Kovesi: “People across Europe are going to be interested in how you're going to do the job and it is indeed notable that you had a certain reputation in Romania for let's say pushing the envelope in terms of investigative practice. You, it seems, were prepared to use the intelligence services in a covert fashion, to dig dirt on some of the suspects that you were going after and in the Romanian constitutional court some of your methods were called into question. Do you regret some of the methods you used?”

In fairness to Ms Kovesi it should be noted that she was not alone at the DNA. Other DNA prosecutors such as Nicolae Marin have also faced such allegations that would amount to “pushing the envelope”, to use Sackur’s phrase.  The difference, perhaps, is that Marin did not lose his job at the DNA, but rather remained and gained more power, remaining a part of the structure that the international community has referred to as Romania’s “parallel state” or “Securitate 2.0”.

Kovesi responded: “No it’s not about the methods, it's about working arrangements that we had but at that moment, based on the legislation, we received information from the secret services and we used that information to open the cases. But it's important to say and to clarify that our investigations were made by the prosecutors and by police officers and no one from the officials of the Secret Service worked on our cases - only the prosecutors, police officers.”

Sackur was characteristically determined to press  Kovesi further, responding: “I'll be honest with you - I was very struck by a former Romanian Prime Minister Mr Tariceanu saying that under your watch the anti-corruption agency had not respected legal frameworks, had become corrupt themselves and had become a part of the political fight in Romania. Some critics called you a part of Securitate 2.0 because of your cooperation with the security services. Again I put it to you that if you bring those methods to your Europe-wide prosecutor role, you're going to make many people very unhappy?”

Kovesi answered: “All our cases that we worked on in Romania were checked and verified in the courts. So at the European level we will work according to the legislation as I did in Romania all the time and everything that the prosecutors did in the cases were checked in the court by judges.”

As ever, Sackur was unrelenting on his point, firing back: “But with respect, the constitutional court in January 2019 concluded that you had created a parallel justice system existing outside the rules imposed by Romania's constitution!”

Kovesi answered: “There is not any decision of the constitutional court saying that I created a parallel state in Romania.” One has to assume that all of the Brussels elite took a collective sharp intake of breath that an EU Prosecutor even needed to utter such a statement.

Sackur did not back down, going on to say: “Well I am reading from one of their rulings of January 2019. Now I know that ultimately charges against you were dropped but nonetheless it's a very serious allegation that you created a parallel justice system. The question really is do you believe that in prosecuting corruption and fraud the ends justify the means?”

Kovesi answered: “If you read that decision based on which the constitutional court absolved me I should say that I made a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights and in this year in May the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights said that in that case my rights were broken so I don't know which kind of decision you call it but I can say that in my entire activity I respected all the time the constitution I respected the procedural Criminal Code and all the national law.”

Sackur continued: “But when it comes to winning… I'm just asking you a simple question now… when it comes to rooting out corruption, do you believe as an aggressive prosecutor that the ends do justify the means?”

Kovesi then responded: “No, all the time in my activity I respected the law and this is the only principle that I will take into consideration and we should take into consideration all the time, to respect the law.”

This episode of Hardtalk was one of the most fascinating discussions on the show in recent times. One European Parliament insider commented: “It is somewhat bizarre that we are in this situation. There are those who feel that Romania joined the EU far too soon, that the country is sadly a long way off reaching any kind of European standard in terms of rule of law. Yet here we are with a European Prosecutor from Romania sitting in Luxembourg, who as Stephen Sackur said, some critics called part of Securitate 2.0 because of her alleged cooperation with the security services.”

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46 arrested in France and Italy in a hit against the #’Ndrangheta



On Tuesday 15 September, the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and the Italian Carabinieri Corps (Arma dei Carabinieri), supported by Europol and Eurojust, arrested 46 individuals (33 in France and 13 in Italy) for their involvement in large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering.

This operation was enabled by an exceptional deployment of more than 550 police officers in France (in and around Paris and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) and Italy (Liguria). During the house searches, law enforcement officers seized weapons, a large amount of cash, counterfeited documents, drugs, vehicles and various assets from money laundering operations. The investigation also uncovered the transfer of weapons, some of them military. The suspects linked to the ‘Ndrangheta were reported to play an active role in cocaine and cannabis trafficking between the Côte d’Azur in France and Liguria in Italy, with supply chains from Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.

Europol supported the investigation by facilitating the information exchange and providing analytical support and operational co-ordination. During the action day, Europol set up a coordination room and provided analytical support to crosscheck information in real time and thus provide leads to investigators on the field.

This case was also supported by the EU’s ISF ONNET project (Internal Security Funds), led by the Italian Anti-mafia Directorate (DIA, Direzione Investigativa Antimafia), which provides financial and operational support to tackle all types of organised crime groups.

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EU, #CEPOL and #Europol launch new project to fight against organized crime in the #EasternPartnership



The European Commission and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) have launched TOPCOP, a new project to support Eastern Partnership Countries -Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, in their fight against organized crime. The European Commission funds this initiative, which is implemented by CEPOL and supported by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Co-operation, Europol.

As highlighted in the Joint Communication of 28 March on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020, organised crime poses a shared challenge for the European Union and the Eastern Partnership countries. To tackle this challenge, the newly launched project will foster deeper cooperation with EU Justice and Home Affairs agencies to fight organised crime, including economic crime, more effectively.

"We are proud to contribute to the fight against organised crime in our partner countries as well as in the EU. Organized crime networks operate across national borders and by intensifying cooperation, we can make sure crime does not pay. It is our common goal to create a safe and just society for all,” said Lawrence Meredith, director for Neighbourhood East at the European Commission.

"CEPOL’s unique role in creating professional training and networking opportunities for law enforcement professionals in the EU and its Neighbourhood is at the heart of CEPOL’s mission. We look forward to working very closely with the six partner countries in the region,” said CEPOL Executive Director Dr. h. c. Detlef Schröder.

Europol Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said: “TOPCOP will improve operational effectiveness and foster more co-operation between the law enforcement authorities of the EU member states and the Eastern Partnership Countries. Working together is crucial to connect the dots between international criminal networks in the EU and the neighbourhood region. Europol’s position at the centre of the European law enforcement architecture enables us to facilitate cooperation in the region.”

TOPCOP aims at improving operational effectiveness across the partner countries in the Eastern Partnership. It will also reinforce the nexus between law enforcement training and operations and provide an up-to-date situational picture of the threat organised crime poses to the region.

The project will create networks of capacity-building contact points to help close any gaps between law enforcement training and operational law enforcement efforts. It will also identify learning needs with a view to providing regional and targeted training based on evidence and commonalities.

The project will make full use of CEPOL’s and Europol’s long standing respective expertise in assessing and delivering on law enforcement training needs, and on analyzing crime data with a view to support international law enforcement co-operation.

The European Union has committed €6 million for this initiative, which will last for a 48 months period. The project will be carried out in close coordination with authorities of the six countries of the Eastern Partnership together with Delegations of the European Union in the region.

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