Fighting crime is a priority for Europeans. Citizens expect that criminals cannot hide behind borders or exploit differences between national legal systems. At the same time, criminal law is still a relatively young field at EU level.
It is essential to design a clear European Criminal Policy enabling the Union to define if, when and how to use criminal law to better enforce a policy. The Lisbon Treaty now provides a framework that makes this possible, as it allows the EU to make use of criminal law to strengthen the enforcement of EU policies and rules.
Criminal sanctions are not the best enforcement tools for all policies. However, applying criminal sanctions can make some European rules more effective, from preventing financial market manipulation to protecting EU taxpayers' money from fraud. The use of criminal sanctions should be reserved for particularly serious offences and be preceded by a sound and thorough analysis.
In a Communication with the title "Towards an EU Criminal Policy", the European Commission has for the first time set out the strategy and principles it intends to apply when using EU criminal law to strengthen the enforcement of European policies and protect the interests of the citizens. The Communication describes the conditions under which the Union and Member States can work together to put in place a coherent and consistent EU criminal policy.