Published for the first time the strategy to apply when using EU criminal law to protect the interests of the citizens

The European Commission published a Communication in which sets out the strategy and principles it intends to apply when using EU criminal law to strengthen the enforcement of European policies and protect the interests of the citizens. The Commission highlighted that it is essential to design a clear European Criminal Policy enabling the Union to define if, when and how to use criminal law to better enforce a policy.

The Communication with the title "Towards an EU Criminal Policy" defines the conditions under which the Union and Member States can work together to put in place a coherent and consistent EU criminal policy. The Commission considers that it is necessary define if, when and how to use criminal law to better enforce a policy. For the time being, the Lisbon Treaty now provides a framework that makes this possible, as it allows the EU to make use of criminal law to strengthen the enforcement of EU policies and rules.

The main guiding criteria proposed by the Commission includes that criminal law must always remain a measure of last resort; criminal law sanctions are reserved for particularly serious offences; criminal law measures are fundamental rights-sensitive: new legislation requires the strict respect of fundamental rights as guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – even when 72% of Europeans do not feel well informed about the Charter, and the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights. In addition, it is suggested that every decision on what type of criminal law measure or sanction to adopt must be accompanied by clear factual evidence and respect the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

Criminal law measures adopted at EU level differ from national criminal law because they cannot impose direct obligations on individuals. EU criminal law only can lead to sanctions being imposed on individuals once a national Parliament has transposed it into national legislation. This is why the involvement of national Parliaments throughout the process of criminal law-making is seen as crucial by the European Commission.

With this Communication the Commission hopes that a clearly defined EU Criminal Policy can help ensure that EU-wide rules are enforced, notably to prevent the manipulation of financial markets, including from insider trading, and safeguard taxpayers' money from fraud against the EU budget or protect the environment, especially when it estimates the total cost of crime to society as a whole at €233 billion a year in the EU.