Leg. Dev.: Scope of the May 29,2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters in the Wake of September 11, 2001

8 Colum. J. Eur. L. 125 (2002)

Charlotte Fishman.

The Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union established by the European Council on May 29, 2000 (“the Convention”), was designed to facilitate and accelerate cooperation between the police and judicial authorities in Member States of the European Union. Its provisions have acquired particular meaning since the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, and its urgency has been emphasized by both the European Council (“the Council”) and the Justice and Home Affairs Council (“the JHA Council”) during extraordinary sessions held after the attacks.


The 1992 Treaty on European Union (“the Treaty”) created an alternative to intergovernmental cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs. A “third pillar” was thus built into the Union’s legal framework, creating new mechanisms to promote the free movement of individuals among the Member States and to guarantee public security. The objectives and authority of the Convention are drawn from Title VI of the Treaty, wherein Member States have agreed to take common action to prevent and combat organized and other crimes, including terrorism, trafficking (in persons, drugs, and illicit arms), offenses against children, corruption, and fraud. With the Convention, the Council acted specifically upon Article 31(a) of the Treaty, calling for efficient cooperation between competent ministries or judicial authorities “in relation to proceedings and the enforcement of decisions. This initiative should be accompanied by common action facilitating extradition between Member States, ensuring compatibility of regulations necessary to  allow cooperation, preventing conflicts ofjurisdiction and establishinp “minimum rules” to define the elements and penalties associated with criminal acts. When the Council established the Convention, the first in the field of judicial cooperation since the Treaty, Member States were invited to initiate the ratification process before January 1, 2001.6 The Convention will then enter into force 90 days after the Secretary General of the Council is notified of an eighth state’s adoption of the measure, and 90 days after adoption for each subsequent Member State.

Precedents were set for cooperation between judicial and law enforcement authorities of Member States by the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 1959, its 1978 Protocol, the Schengen Agreement of 1985, and the Benelux Treaty on Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 1962. The Convention supplements and “modernizes” the provisions of these previous agreements.