Daniel Adam Poplawski
On 29 June 2017, the Court of Justice (Fifth Chamber) delivered its judgment in case C-579/15. This case involves the interpretation of Art. 4 (6) of the EAW Framework Decision which sets out a ground for optional non-execution of the EAW under which the executing judicial authority may refuse to execute an EAW for the purposes of enforcing a custodial sentence where the requested person is staying in, or is a national or a resident of the executing Member State and that State undertakes to enforce that sentence in accordance with its domestic law.
In 2007, Mr. Popławski, a Polish national, was sentenced by a Polish court to a one-year suspended prison sentence. This court eventually ordered the enforcement of that sentence and issued an EAW to that end. As Mr. Popławski was residing in the Netherlands, the competent Dutch court to execute the EAW raised doubts as to the compatibility with the EAW Framework Decision of a provision of Dutch law which, in such a situation, did not authorise such a surrender and merely laid down the obligation for the Dutch authorities to inform the competent authorities of the issuing Member State that they are willing to take over the enforcement of the judgment, without making such refusal of execution of the EAW conditional to the effective taking over of the execution of the sentence in the Netherlands. In this context, the referring court asked several questions to the Court in relation with the EAW Framework Decision.
The Court of Justice first specified that, although the relevant Dutch legislation is no longer in force, since the referring court considers that it is still applicable to the main proceedings, it remains necessary to reply to the questions referred.
As to the question of compatibility of this legislation with Art. 4 (6) of the EAW Framework Decision, the Court held that it follows from the wording of this provision that any refusal to execute an EAW presupposes an actual undertaking on the part of the executing Member State to execute the custodial sentence imposed on the requested person. Hence, the mere fact that the executing Member State declares itself “willing” to execute the sentence cannot be regarded as justifying such a refusal. It therefore found that Art. 4(6) of the EAW Framework Decision must be interpreted to the effect that it precludes legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings.
The Court also pointed out that the EAW Framework decision does not have direct effect, as it was adopted on the basis of the former third pillar of the European Union. Nevertheless, it recalled that the binding character of a Framework Decision places on national authorities, including national courts, an obligation to interpret national law in conformity with EU law. Accordingly, the competent national court, by taking the whole body of domestic law into consideration and applying the interpretative methods recognised by it, is obliged to interpret the provisions of national law at issue in the main proceeding, so far as possible, in the light of the wording and the purpose of that Framework Decision.
The Court therefore ruled that, in the event of a refusal to execute an EAW issued with a view to the surrender of a person who has been finally judged in the issuing Member State and given a custodial sentence, the judicial authorities of the executing Member State are themselves required to ensure that the sentence pronounced against that person is actually executed.
Finally, in light, notably, of the ne bis in idem principle, the Court found that Art. 4 (6) of the EAW Framework Decision must be interpreted to the effect that it does not authorise a Member State to refuse to execute a European arrest warrant issued with a view to the surrender of a person who has been finally judged and given a custodial sentence, on the sole ground that it intends to prosecute that person in relation to the same acts as those for which that judgment was pronounced.
Case Number C-579/15
Name of the parties Daniel Adam Poplawski
Date of the judgement 2017-06-29
Court Court of Justice of the EU (Fifth Chamber)