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A matter of trust
A consideration from the weekly ´´L’Aurore du Bourbonnais´´
On criminal law competence matters acquired by the European Union with the Lisbon Treaty, following a Commission proposal, EU justice ministers adopted at the end of April a new Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings. Currently, rulings has been implemented only in one third of the 27 Member States. Under the Directive suspects of a criminal offense will be informed of their rights in a language they understand: anyone arrested will receive a Letter of Rights listing their basic rights during criminal proceedings. Once it will have entered into force (two years after its publication on the Official Journal of the European Union which should take place in a week) the new Directive, according to Brussels will be applied to an estimated 8 million criminal proceedings each year throughout the 27 Member States. The new EU Law will help safeguard fair trial and right to defense, sanctioned by the Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and European Convention on Human Rights. Elisabeth Legrand in the article published by the French weekly “ L’Aurore du Bourbonnais” (www.auroredubourbonnais.fr[>>] - 11/05/2012) stressed the importance of a EU criminal policy to strengthen citizens trust in “life in a free, safe and just Europe”.
Avoid “areas of impunity”. According to Eurobarometer Spring 2011, EU citizens rate crime as an “important concern” and not merely “a national phenomena”. Cybercrime, trafficking in drugs and human beings, organized crime have become increasingly “international and more sophisticated”. For this reason Legrand points out, “it is important to prevent criminals from taking advantage of diversity in national criminal law systems. Meaningful legal differences” among 27 Member States criminal systems “ can hinder judicial cooperation”. Crime offenders –“can- and are prone -to choose a Member State with more lenient laws on some crimes, unless national law eradicates the existence of impunity areas”. For the author of the survey, criminal law is still a sensitive policy field” and cannot but mirror “basic values, customs and choices of a specific kind of society”. Therefore “complete harmonization of criminal laws is impossible, nor desirable. What matters is that EU ruling in this field must become truly an added value”.
Value added. Among the measures adopted by the EU before the Lisbon Treaty approval to fight crime, European arrest warrant (2004) that imposes all national legal authority, after minimum controls, to transfer a criminal suspect to the issuing state. Today, Legrand highlights, this arrest warrant “eases extradition procedures of criminal offenders”. The Lisbon Treaty broadens the horizon because according to the article “it provides a legal framework to criminal law, enabling EU to tackle gaps and shortcomings wherever action adds value”. From now on EU competent institutions can therefore define “criminally sanctionable behavior, effectively protect the rights of suspected and accused persons and victims, “ while “ the legal device ascribes the European Parliament an important role and assigns a legal in-depth control to the EU Court of Justice”. The Lisbon Treaty strengthens the role of national parliaments “that can give their views on draft legislation and have a voice in monitoring the respect of the principle of subsidiarity”.
Foster citizen trust. Lastly, Legrand adds, “The European Charter for fundamental rights sets important limitations to EU action in this field”. An important feature for the expert “because criminal law includes rules that can have an impact on freedom. Thus, the reason why the Charter provides for a binding core of rules that protects citizens”. “An EU criminal policy must be focused on strengthening citizens’ trust in a free, safe and just life in Europe”. Legrand concludes by writing that” EU law must protect their interests and must be fully implemented and respected”.