The Court primarily based its reasoning on its earlier jurisprudence. After recognising the importance of the principle of mutual trust, in particular in the area of European criminal law, and assessing the implementation of the principle of mutual recognition in the EAW framework, the Court pointed out that it follows from Art. 1(1) of the framework decision that an arrest warrant is a ‘judicial decision‘, which requires that it be issued by a ‘judicial authority‘ within the meaning of Article 6(1) of that framework decision.
The Court then highlighted the principle of procedural autonomy in relation to the MS‘s competence to designate the judicial authority issuing EAWs, which however requires an autonomous and uniform interpretation throughout the Union. In fact, it follows from the case law that the concept of judicial authority includes MS authorities which, although not necessarily judges or courts, participate in the administration of national criminal justice. The Court continued, stressing the teleological interpretation of the principle of judicial cooperation as enshrined in Article 82(1)(d) TFEU and recital 5 of the Framework Decision, thereby connecting it to the objectives set for the AFSJ in accordance with mutual recognition. Additionally, the CJEU underlined that the issuing of a European arrest warrant may have two distinct aims, as laid down in Article 1(1) of Framework Decision 2002/584. It may be issued either for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution in the issuing MS or for the purposes of executing a custodial sentence or detention order in that MS. It then concluded that in casu, it is clear from the information in the case file before the Court that, in Germany, public prosecutors‘ offices have an essential role in the conduct of criminal proceedings and can be regarded as participating in the administration of criminal justice in Germany.
Secondly, the Court went on assessing the requirements of independence of the public prosecutor in light of its subordination to the executive.
The CJEU started by explaining that the aims of the Framework Decision are to introduce a simplified system of surrender directly between judicial authorities designed to replace a traditional system of cooperation between sovereign States — which involves the intervention and assessment of the executive — in order to ensure the free circulation of court decisions in criminal matters within the AFSJ. Thus, when an EAW is issued with the aim to arrest a requested person, that person must have already had the benefit, at the first stage of the proceedings, of procedural safeguards and fundamental rights, the protection of which it is the task of the judicial authorities of the issuing MS to ensure, in accordance with the applicable provisions of national law. The Court described this as a dual level of protection of procedural rights and fundamental rights which must be enjoyed by the requested person: In addition to the judicial protection provided at the first level when issuing the national arrest warrant there shall also be protection at the second level when the EAW is issued. Since the EAW impinges on the right to liberty of the person concerned, as mandated by Article 6 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, that protection means that a decision meeting the requirements inherent in effective judicial protection should be adopted, at least, at one of the two levels of that protection. Thus, where an MS confers the competence to issue a EAW on an authority other than a judicial one, that authority must itself meet those requirements. The latter are satisfied where the decision to issue a EAW is s based on a national procedure that is subject to review by a court and that the person in respect of whom that national arrest warrant was issued has had the benefit of all safeguards appropriate to the adoption of that type of decision, inter alia those derived from the fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles referred to in Article 1(3) of Framework Decision 2002/584. The second level of protection mandates that the judicial authority competent to issue a European arrest warrant by virtue of domestic law must review, in particular, observance of the conditions necessary for the issuing of the European arrest warrant and examine whether, in the light of the particular circumstances of each case, it is proportionate to issue that warrant. It is for the ‘issuing judicial authority‘ to guarantee this second level of protection. This authority must be capable of exercising its responsibilities objectively, taking into account all incriminatory and exculpatory evidence, without being exposed to the risk that its decision-making power be subject to external directions or instructions, in particular from the executive, such that it is beyond doubt that the decision to issue a European arrest warrant lies with that authority and not ultimately with the executive.
The CJEU thus affirmed that the issuing judicial authority must be in a position to give assurances to the executing judicial authority that, as regards the guarantees provided by the legal order of the issuing Member State, it acts independently in the execution of its responsibilities which are inherent in the issuing of EAW. That independence requires that there are statutory rules and an institutional framework capable of guaranteeing that the issuing judicial authority is not exposed, when adopting a decision to issue such an arrest warrant, to any risk of being subject, inter alia, to an instruction in a specific case from the executive. Additionally, where domestic law grants the competence to issue a European arrest warrant on an authority which, whilst participating in the administration of justice in that Member State, is not itself a court, the decision to issue such an arrest warrant and, inter alia, the proportionality of such a decision must be capable of being the subject, in the Member State, of court proceedings which meet in full the requirements inherent in effective judicial protection.
In casu, although the German public prosecutors are required to act objectively, they are subject to the external power of the minister of justice which issues instruction with regard to the public prosecutors‘ offices. When assessing the safeguards in place, such as the application of the principle of legality to all the public prosecutors‘ actions, the CJEU made clear that such safeguards, assuming that their existence were to be established, cannot wholly rule out the possibility in all circumstances, that a decision of a public prosecutor‘s office, such as in casu, to issue a EAW may, in a given case, be subject to an instruction from the minister for justice of the relevant Land.
When dealing with the substance of the case, the CJEU clarified that the existence of the principle of legality is not, in itself, capable of preventing the minister for justice of a Land from influencing the discretion enjoyed by the public prosecutors‘ offices of that Land in deciding to issue a EAW. Secondly, it outlined that although some instructions are given in writing, it cannot be ruled out that such instructions may be given orally. Lastly, in casu, the fact remains that that safeguard in place does not appear to cover all cases, not being enacted in statutory form.
Where the executive may influence a public prosecutor‘s office in such a way in a specific case signifies that the guarantees of independence cannot be ensured. Although the decision to issue a EAW can be challenged by the individual concerned, the effect of that legal remedy is to grant a possibility of review by a court a posteriori, which means that any instruction by the minister of justice remains in any case permitted by German law. Thus, it follows that in so far as the public prosecutors‘ offices at issue in the main proceedings are exposed to the risk of being influenced by the executive in their decision to issue a EAW, those public prosecutors‘ offices do not appear to meet one of the requirements of being regarded as an ‘issuing judicial authority‘, within the meaning of Article 6(1) of Framework Decision 2002/584, namely the requirement that it be guaranteed that they act independently in issuing such an arrest warrant. The Court concluded that where public prosecutors are exposed to the risk of being subject, directly or indirectly, to directions or instructions in a specific case from the executive, such as a Minister for Justice, in connection with the adoption of a decision to issue a EAW, they do not fall under the concept of an ‘issuing judicial authority‘.