Judicial authorities in EU Member States are increasingly turning to Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, for assistance in investigations of serious cross-border crimes and terrorism, to bring suspects to trial in national courts. In spite of drastic restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Agency ensured full operational continuity, with 13 % more cases registered last year, to more than 8 800 in total. About one-half of all cases were newly opened, reflecting the growing level of complexity in cross-border criminal investigations. In 2020, judicial cooperation via Eurojust led to the arrest of 2 209 suspects, the freezing of EUR 1.9 billion in criminal assets and the seizure of drugs worth EUR 3 billion.
These are the main conclusions from the Eurojust Annual Report, which has been presented today by its President, Mr Ladislav Hamran, in the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament. On this occasion, he stated: ‘In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had us face the most significant and unpredictable challenges in decades. I am incredibly proud of the flexibility, resilience and determination that Eurojust has shown in the face of this crisis. Our operational support was never interrupted and our impressive results confirm that even under the most difficult circumstances, we are still able to make a real, tangible contribution towards a safer Europe.’
European Commissioner for Justice Mr Didier Reynders said: ‘I congratulate Eurojust for the determination it has shown in its mission and for stepping up its action in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. I am aware that the latest months have put a strain on the functioning of the justice systems in the European Union. Justice will grow stronger after this crisis. Member States are increasing the spending in the digitalisation of the justice systems and are joining forces to prevent cross-border crimes. Eurojust also plays a key role in this transition.’
In total, 164 cases were directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, either regarding difficulties with the execution of European Arrest Warrants and European Investigation Orders due to border closures, or concerning fraud with, for instance, the sale of face masks and protective gels.