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Caught Between National and Supranational Values: Limitations to Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters as Part of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice within the European Union

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Currently, the European Union is based on both supranational (first pillar) and international (second and third pillar) law. The third pillar signifies police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters and although formally based on international law, it has been under increasing "supranational pressure" by the developments in the "Area of Freedom, Security and Justice". This Area is focused on a set of common values and principles closely tied to those of the single market and its four "freedoms".

The main argument of this article is that the legal framework of the third pillar is an impediment to judicial cooperation in criminal matters in general, and to the coordination of conflicts of jurisdiction and the principle of ne bis in idem in particular. The legal framework of the third pillar finds itself in the middle of an identity crisis, since it can neither be identified as a traditional intergovernmental, nor as a supranational institutional framework. Criminal law is a politically sensitive matter, which on the one hand explains why the EU member states are reluctant to submit their powers over the issue to the European level and on the other hand, it implies that if the EU member states really want to cooperate on such an intensive level, they will have to submit some of their powers in order to strengthen EU constitutional law. The article suggests a reform of the third pillar through the method of "communitization", which is exactly what will happen in case the EU Reform Treaty will enter into force. This would offer the ingredients for a true international community in which the ambitious agenda of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice can realise its aim of a common set of values and principles which supersedes those of each of the member states individually.


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