EU debates mutual recognition laws

EU member states are close to reaching an agreement on a framework directive establishing the mutual recognition principle in matters involving the confiscation of the proceeds of crime.

The issue is being debated by the justice and home affairs ministers of the 15 EU member states plus the 10 countries due to join the EU on 1 May. Once approved, the measure will mean that every member state will have to recognise and execute in its territory all confiscation orders issued by the judicial authorities of other EU countries.

The directive is linked to a framework decision applying mutual recognition to orders freezing property or evidence, which has already been approved.

Meeting at the EU Council of Ministers, justice ministers agreed to ensure that the new framework decision would not affect the “fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles” on which the EU is based. As regards the grounds for refusal by national authorities to comply with a confiscation order, they agreed to a consultation mechanism between member states in cases where a confiscation order is not recognised or executed, but added that where orders are enforced, this should be “at least to the extent provided for in similar domestic cases under national law”.

EU officials are to examine the outstanding questions with a view to striking a formal agreement by the summer.