EU pursues case against Estonia over presumption of innocence infringement

Estonian Court of Justice
Estonian Court of Justice Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The European Commission decided on Thursday to pursue infringement proceedings against Estonia for incomplete transposition of EU rules on the presumption of innocence. The Commission sent Estonia a reasoned opinion (formal request to comply with EU law – ed.) which, if unresolved, could lead to a referral to the European Court of Justice. Similar procedures are also ongoing against Poland and Finland.

"Today, the European Commission has decided to take further steps in the infringement procedures  against Estonia, Poland and Finland, for failing to fully transpose the Directive on strengthening the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings" said an EU Commission press release.

The statement went on to explain, that "the Directive is one of six adopted by the EU to create common minimum standards ensuring that the fair trial rights of suspects and accused persons are sufficiently protected across the EU."

According to the statement, "The Commission considers that the transposing measures notified by Estonia, Poland and Finland are only a partial transposition of the Directive."

By way of example, the Commission identified Estonia's "shortcomings in relation to premature public references to guilt and the availability of appropriate remedial measures," the statement said.

According to the press release, the European Commission had already sent a formal letter of notice to Estonia, Poland and Finland regarding the issue, in February 2022. However, the replies received were not considered to have fully addressed the Commission's concerns. As a result, the Commission decided to send reasoned opinions to the three Member States, which is the next phase in the infringement procedure.

The aim of the EU Directive on strengthening the presumption of innocence, is to increase trust between Member States regarding each other's criminal justice systems and thus facilitate mutual recognition of decisions on criminal matters.

"Estonia, Poland and Finland now have two months to reply. If the concerns are not addressed, the Commission may decide to refer their cases to the Court of Justice of the European Union," the statement said.

More information about the European Commission's infringement decisions for September 2022 can be found here.

Editor: Michael Cole

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