Minister Henriksson: Electronic transmission of requests for legal assistance must be possible between EU member states
The European Judicial Network in criminal matters (EJN) is holding its 53rd plenary meeting in Helsinki on 20–22 November to discuss the digital exchange of electronic evidence between authorities. The meeting is part of the official programme of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The EJN is a network of National Contact Points tasked with facilitating judicial cooperation between EU member states, particularly in the fight against serious crime. Each EU member state has also designated a National Correspondent for the network. EJN Contact Points are usually prosecutors from local judicial authorities. Finland’s Contact Points also include judges and officials from the National Bureau of Investigation and the Ministry of Justice.
“EU judicial cooperation is based on shared values and mutual recognition of decisions. This was decided 20 years ago in Tampere, when Finland held the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time,” said Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson in the meeting’s opening address.
EJN Contact Points may directly request information relating to criminal proceedings from Contact Points in other member states. Some 7,000 such requests are made each year. Nowadays, the requests increasingly concern cross-border access to electronic evidence. The EJN website has more than one million site visits per year.
“The cooperation within the EJN is excellent. The challenge is that we do not yet have a joint, secure electronic channel for the transmission of requests and responses concerning legal assistance. Work is currently under way to develop such a channel,” Minister Henriksson said.
In her address, Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen stressed that the effective functioning of the EJN requires a high level of trust and an understanding of different legal systems.
“The legal systems in the EU differ in many ways. At the same time, however, they are based on our shared European values, above all on respect for human rights and the rule of law,” Toiviainen said.
The agenda of the EJN meeting also includes a presentation by Laura Kövesi, newly elected European Chief Prosecutor, on the state of play on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), which is in the process of being established.
Merja Norros, Head of Unit, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 295 150 590, merja.norros(at)om.fi (Thursday 21 November)
Tuuli Eerolainen, State Prosecutor, Office of the Prosecutor General, tel. +358 295 620 818, tuuli.eerolainen(at)oikeus.fi (Friday 22 November)