Speech by Minister for Justice and Home Affairs Morgan Johansson at conference on criminal justice cooperation in the EU
20 years of progress in criminal justice cooperation within the European Union – digital conference, 18 February 2022, hosted by the French Presidency in the EU
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I would like to begin by thanking the French presidency for hosting this important conference. And a special thanks to Éric Dupond-Moretti for inviting me to speak.
Twenty years ago, the European Union took its first steps towards a completely new way of cooperating in criminal matters.
The topics of this conference, Eurojust and the European Arrest Warrant, have proved to be very important tools in the fight against serious and cross-border crime.
Eurojust's valuable work and support to law enforcement agencies cannot be overestimated.
And the European Arrest Warrant has paved the way for cooperation based on the principle of mutual recognition. Over the years, we have adopted several legal acts based on this principle. Some are applied frequently, while others could need a bit more attention.
Cooperation based on this principle is of the utmost importance in the fight against serious and cross-border crime, as well as when it comes to enforcing final decisions and judgments, such as custodial sentences, fines and confiscation orders.
For a well-functioning judicial cooperation, I would like to highlight three aspects that are particularly important.
Firstly, our courts and competent authorities need to be made more aware of the opportunities in this field of cooperation. They must become more familiar with the obligations arising from these legal acts and the case law from the European Court of Justice. This could be done by more information and training.
Secondly, cooperation must be simple and effective. Deadlines must be respected. Language barriers should be removed as far as possible. Standardized procedures and certificates should be developed. Complicated procedures and language barriers can be a reason why certain instruments are applied less than other. We have reached far, but we can do more.
The last, and crucial, aspect is that cooperation presupposes mutual trust. We must respect each other's differences. But all Member States must also respect the fundamental principles that are the foundation of the European Union. The principles of the rule of law are obviously one of them. And the freedoms and rights of individuals should never be set aside. Every time a decision or a judgment is questioned by an executing authority with reference to fundamental principles, for instance in the EU Charter, is basically a failure. Our aim should be that these questions never arise.
In the last 20 years, a great deal of work has been done. And we should be proud of what we have achieved together. However, we need to continue. A lot of work remains.
For example, we have to expand the field of cooperation. Cyberspace is one such area. Our law enforcement agencies need for electronic evidence cannot be underestimated. Another field is transfer of proceedings. A clear legal framework for such cooperation would give our law enforcement authorities another important tool.
There are many challenges ahead of us. However, I promise that Sweden will contribute to this work in all possible ways, not least through our upcoming presidency.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to address this conference and its important topics.