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European arrest warrant implementation a success

The Commission regards the implementation of the European arrest warrant as a success

Today the Commission presented its report evaluating the implementation of the European arrest warrant. Since 1 January 2004, the EAW has replaced the extradition procedure between the Member States. “Despite some initial delays, the EAW is now operational in most of the cases planned”, stated Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini, in charge of Justice, Freedom and Security, “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”.

The European arrest warrant was established by the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 and is the first and most symbolic measure giving effect to the mutual recognition principle. In most cases it makes it possible to surrender a person who is suspected or convicted of an offence from one Member State to another within the area of freedom, security and justice, which thus acquires added substance.

Although time limits were respected in only about half of the cases, the EAW is now implemented and applied in all the Member States except Italy. But the report highlights the difficulties that remain as regards the application of the Framework Decision in certain Member States. The presentation of the report should provide an opportunity to stimulate all the Member States to give full and proper effect to their commitments here.

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.

Since the Framework Decision came into operation, the average time taken to execute a warrant is provisionally estimated to have fallen from more than nine months to 45 days. This does not include those frequent cases where the person consents to surrender, for which the average time taken is 18 days.

The Commission considers this first evaluation as provisional and accordingly reserves the right to present proposals for amending the Framework Decision in the light of further experience.

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