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 warrant, authorities have to respect the procedural rights of suspects or accused persons – such as the right to information, to have a lawyer, and possibly an interpreter, as stipulated by law in the country where they are arrested.

How to issue a European arrest warrant (handbook)

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 warrant 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 serious offences, there is no requirement that the act is a criminal offence in both countries. The only requirement is that it be punishable by 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 warrant 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 surrendering 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 arresting country)
    amnesty (the arresting 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 mentioned above
    – territorial jurisdiction
    – pending criminal procedure in the executing country
    – statute of limitations.

Statistics on EAW use

In most countries, the wanted person is surrendered:

  • with consent – in 14-16 days (about 50% of all surrenders)
  • without consent – in less than 2 months.

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












6 900

6 750

11 000

14 200

15 800

13 900

9 800

10 450

13 100


Traced and/or arrested

1 770

2 040


4 500

6 150

6 460

6 490

5 840

7 850



1 530

1 890

3 400

3 630

5 580

5 370

5 230

4 480

3 460


Related links

Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant

Last update: 01/06/2016

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