14 of the 27 EU Member States have not put the rules relating to cross-border crime in place

On July 2010, Italian authorities confiscated €60 million of Mafia assets. In the UK, £92.3 million was seized from an international crime ring with property in Dubai. The seizures only claim a fraction of the total wealth of criminals, which today can be easily transferred across borders.

The EU rules in force since 2006 (Council Framework Decision) allow Member States to obtain the confiscation of criminal assets abroad. Nevertheless, a report published by the European Commission shows that half of EU countries have yet to put these rules in place.

Criminals take advantage of the open borders in the EU by moving stolen assets or illegal goods across borders. Confiscation is a valuable tool to stop this practice.

Under EU rules, one EU country can send a confiscation order to another country where the subject of the order lives or has property or income. The other country directly carries out the confiscation, under its own national rules, without any further formality.

Nevertheless, the report shows that by February 2010 only 13 of the 27 EU countries have put the rules in place. Although the deadline for implementing the measures was 24 November 2008, seven countries told the Commission that the legislative process was still underway, while the other seven gave no information.

Justice cooperation limited without faith in fairness of justice systems

The current EU rules lists limited circumstances in which Member States may refuse to carry out confiscation orders, such as violation of double jeopardy (being tried twice for the same crime) or very long delays between the facts and final conviction. However, report of the Commission shows that all but three countries (Ireland, Portugal and the Netherlands) have added further reasons for refusing to carry out other countries’ confiscation orders. This limits the impact of an instrument intended to allow authorities to immediately recognise each others' decisions.

The report also warned that even where the rules are in place, confiscation orders are still not recognised automatically due to legal formalities, such as public hearings, which have been added to national rules in four countries (Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovenia).

The Commission has therefore made a priority of rolling out common minimum standards – starting with interpretation and translation rights for criminal suspects, already entering into force this autumn, and a letter of rights, proposed on 20th July 2010.


On 6th October 2006, EU Member States agreed a Council Framework Decision to recognise and immediately begin executing confiscation orders delivered by competent authorities of other EU countries.

Before the Lisbon Treaty, EU justice rules were adopted under the former so-called "third pillar" as "Framework Decisions," which were binding on the Member States regarding the results, but left the choice of form and methods to the national authorities. This could result in approximate rules which in practice could vary widely across the EU. For a transitional period until 2014, the Commission cannot take legal action to make sure Member States enforce these rules.