Monday, February 28, 2005

A huge success

In case you were wondering, the European Arrest Warrant has been a huge success. How do we know? Well, the Commissar for Freedom, Justice and Security (there’s an Orwellian title if you like), Franco Frattini has said so:
“Despite some initial delays, the EAW is now operational in most of the cases planned and its impact is positive, in terms of depoliticisation, efficiency, and speed in the procedure for surrendering people who are sought for questioning in the Member States, while fundamental rights are respected throughout. This overall success should not blind us to the fact that some Member States still need to make an effort to come into line with the Framework Decision.”
In other words extradition of people charged or merely suspected of various offences (remember that list of 32?) has also become a matter of administrative management, just as legislation and regulation. What price freedom, justice or security?

A Commission press release informs us gladly but sternly:
“The effectiveness of the EAW can be gauged provisionally from the 2 603 warrants issued, the 653 persons arrested and the 104 persons surrendered up to September 2004. The surrender of nationals, a major innovation in the Framework Decision, is now a fact, though most Member States have chosen to apply the condition that in the case of their nationals the sentence should be executed on their territory.”
Well, how can you argue with that? It seems, however, that certain rather naughty member states have been displaying non-communautaire traits. Shame on them.
“According to the Commission report, further efforts are still required in Italy, where the matter is still before Parliament, and in certain Member States to come fully into line with the Framework Decision (in particular, for reasons specific to each country, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the United Kingdom).”
So ten out of twenty-five are not falling completely into line and seem to think that protecting (however feebly) their citizens’ basic rights is a little more important than pushing forward the integration agenda. Let us see what these recalcitrant regimes have done:
“Three Member States (Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Slovenia) have unilaterally restricted the application of the EAW in time, contrary to the Framework Decision. Requests for extradition that they are still presenting in some cases are therefore now likely to be rejected by the other Member States.

Two Member States (Czech Republic and the Netherlands) require a modulation of penalties to align them on those of their own system before they can be imposed on their own nationals, which effectively reinstates the double criminality rule. Others have introduced grounds for refusal contrary to the Framework Decision (Denmark, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom), such as the threat of political discrimination, national security considerations or review of the substance of the case.”
Clearly there is some way to go before the entire extradition system together with any residual notion of double criminality are abolished. The Commission is not so quietly confident that those aims will be achieved very soon.

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