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European Arrest Warrant


The European arrest warrant ("EAW") is a simplified cross-border judicial surrender procedure – for the purpose of prosecuting or executing a custodial sentence or detention order. A warrant issued by one EU country's judicial authority is valid in the entire territory of the EU.

The European arrest warrant has been operational since 1 January 2004. It has replaced the lengthy extradition procedures that used to exist between EU countries.


How it works

This is a request by a judicial authority in one EU country to arrest a person in another and surrender them for prosecution, or to execute a custodial sentence or detention order issued in the first country. The mechanism is based on the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions. It is operational in all EU countries

It operates via direct contacts between judicial authorities.

In applying the EAW, authorities have to respect the Link opens in new windowprocedural rights of suspects or accused persons – such as the right to information, to have a lawyer, and an interpreter, and to legal aid as stipulated by law in the country where they are arrested.

How is it different to traditional extradition?

  1. Strict time limits
    The country where the person is arrested has to return them to the country where the EAW was issued within maximum 60 days after the arrest.
    If the person consents to the surrender, the surrender decision must be taken within 10 days.
  2. Double criminality – no longer required
    For 32 categories of offences, there is no requirement that the act is a criminal offence in both countries. The only requirement is that it be punishable by a maximum period of at least 3 years of imprisonment in the issuing country.
  3. No political involvement
    Decisions are made by judicial authorities alone, with no political considerations involved.
  4. Surrender of nationals
    EU countries can no longer refuse to surrender their own nationals, unless they take over the execution of the prison sentence against the wanted person.
  5. Guarantees
    The country that executes the EAW may require guarantees that:
    a. after a certain period the person will have the right to ask for review, if the punishment imposed is a life sentence.
    b. the wanted person can do any resulting prison time in the executing country, if they are a national or habitual resident of that country.
  6. Limited grounds for refusal
    A country can refuse to surrender the requested person only if one of the grounds for mandatory or optional refusal applies:

    Mandatory grounds
    – the person has already been judged for the same offence (ne bis in idem)
    minors (the person has not reached the age of criminal responsibility in the executing country)
    amnesty (the executing country could have prosecuted them, and the offence is covered by an amnesty in that country).

    Optional grounds – such as:
    – lack of double criminality for offences other than the 32 listed in Article 2(2) of the Framework Decision of EAW 
    – territorial jurisdiction
    – pending criminal procedure in the executing country
    – statute of limitations, etc.

Handbook on How to Issue and Execute a EAW

The European Commission published a Handbook on How to Issue and Execute a European Arrest WarrantPDF(2002 Kb)en, to facilitate and simplify the daily work of concerned judicial authorities. The Handbook provides detailed guidance on the procedural steps for issuing and executing a EAW. The Handbook also provides for a complete explanation of the major case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union interpreting particular provisions of the Framework Decision on EAW.

The handbook in all languages can be found here: BGPDF(2700 Kb)bg, CSPDF(1854 Kb)cs, DAPDF(1766 Kb)da, DEPDF(1659 Kb)de, ETPDF(1783 Kb)et, ELPDF(2439 Kb)el, ESPDF(1649 Kb)es, FRPDF(1892 Kb)fr, HRPDF(1789 Kb)hr, ITPDF(2141 Kb)it, LVPDF(2158 Kb)lv, LTPDF(1865 Kb)lt, HUPDF(1908 Kb)hu, MTPDF(2560 Kb)mt, NLPDF(2047 Kb)nl, PLPDF(2200 Kb)pl, PTPDF(1968 Kb)pt, ROPDF(1926 Kb)ro, SLPDF(1797 Kb)sl, SKPDF(1977 Kb)sk, FIPDF(2172 Kb)fi, SVPDF(1591 Kb)sv.

Statistics on EAW use

In 2015, on average the wanted person were surrendered:

  • with consent – in 14 days (about 50% of all surrenders)
  • without consent – in less than 2 months.

Replies to questionnaire on EAW 2014PDF(1582 Kb)en

Replies to questionnaire on EAW 2015PDF(1479 Kb)en

Data is not available for all countries, but the table indicates how frequently the warrant is used.

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Issued

6 894

6 889

10 883

14 910

15 827

13 891

9 784

10 665

13 142

14 948

16 144

Executed EAWs

836

1 223

2 221

3 078

4 431

4 293

3 153

3 652

3 467

5 535

5 304

Related links

Link opens in new window Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant


This page is maintained by the European Commission. The information on this page does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. The Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice with regard to copyright rules for European pages.

Last update: 03/10/2017