The European Investigation Order (EIO) is a judicial decision issued in or validated by the judicial authority in one EU country (Member State) to have investigative measures, to collect or make use of evidence in criminal cases taken place in another EU country (Member State). The EIO is valid throughout the European Union, however it does not apply in Denmark and Ireland. The main key feature of EIO is based on mutual recognition, thus the executing authority is obliged to recognise and guarantee the execution of the request of the other EU country (Member State).
The EIO was established by the Directive 2014/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 regarding the European Investigation Order in criminal matters/cases. EIO is a legal instrument of vital importance in the Member States of the European Union that simplifies and accelerates the cross-border criminal investigations.
The introduction of EIO took place in May 2017 and forms a distinct comprehensive framework with the purpose of obtaining evidence. EIO is actually a more accelerated alternative compared to the traditional legal instruments. In this framework, EIO outlines firm deadlines and establishes restricted potential for refusal/rejection by the executing EU country (Member State).
No matter how valuable instrument the EIO has been proved in the legal practice of criminal law cases, there are still a number of practitioners who have expressed the necessity of guidance and support in order to take out the full benefits of the aforementioned instrument. Under this light, the use of the EIO requires adequate knowledge of national criminal law systems, speedy access to the right contact persons and entities as well as a realistic and flexible approach to the specific legal matter/case of the respective EU country (Μember State).
Problems, legal and practical implications, include the non-recognition or rejection of the EIO by the executing State, questions regarding the extent and suitability of the EIO, the need for timely involvement and interference in urgent cases and the application of particular investigative measures. These, include hearing witnesses and suspects, house searches, checks on bank accounts/financial transactions, interception of telecommunications, temporary transfer of persons in custody as well as obtaining existing evidence and preservation of this evidence.
The main advantages of the EIO are that it establishes a single comprehensive instrument of extended scope and span, sets up firm deadlines for collecting the required evidence, and limits reasons for rejecting such requests. What is more, it reduces paperwork by establishing a single standard form, and protects the fundamental rights of the defence.
Whilst the necessity of digitalisation of the judiciary was clear long before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis became a vehicle in making “digital”, the ideal option in cross- border judicial cooperation in order to battle cross-border crime and terrorism.
On this spectrum, in December 2020, the European Commission tabled comprehensive proposals to further enhance the digitalisation of judicial systems.
It is very important to mention that since the outbreak of the pandemic, Eurojust commenced the respective process of 3.240 new cases, including 164 straightforwardly related to the COVID-19 crisis.
During the same period, Eurojust organised 286 coordination meetings (the majority were held via videoconference), 14 coordination centres and supported the establishment of 58 new joint investigation teams.
As a conclusion, EIO constitutes a valuable legal instrument not only in theory but also in practice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.