Book review: The Needed Balances in EU Criminal Law: Past, Present and Future

Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
subjectMatterBook reviews
Book review
The Needed Balances in EU Criminal Law: Past, Present and Future, Chlo´
e Bri`
ere and Anne Weyembergh (eds.)
(Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2017), ISBN 9781509937493, 472 pp., £ 40.50
Reviewed by: Adriano Martufi, Universiteit Leiden, The Netherlands
DOI: 10.1177/2032284420963218
The book edited by Chlo´e Bri`ere and Anne Weyembergh is an important entry in the Hart series
‘Studies in European Criminal Law’. The volume includes the proceedings of the International
Conference ‘The Needed Balances in EU Criminal Law: Past, Present and Future’, organised by
the European Criminal Law Academic Network (ECLAN) in 2016 (along with a number of
additional contributions). This event celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Network. Accordingly,
the book includes contributions from numerous scholars and practitioners active within ECLAN.
The collection offers an impressively large overview of current research topics in the area of
European Union (EU) criminal law. Those topics range from issues of constitutional nature (the
problems of EU competence and the relationship between EU institutions in the area of criminal
justice) to the challenges facing EU agencies such as Europol, Eurojust and the newly established
European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). In their introduction, Bri`ere and Weyembergh
expand on the conceptual framework of this collection. As they point out, the notion of ‘balance’
is key to reflecting on the current Zeitgeist of EU criminal law as it encapsulates the key points of
contention regarding the future of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.
The notion of ‘balance’ (and the related concept of ‘imbalance’), therefore, provides a unifying
framework to investigate EU criminal law’s most heated topics and indicate the path for future
reforms. By ingeniously relying on the various nuances of the term ‘balance’, the editors have
divided the book into four different parts (plus an introduction). Each part reflects the goal of
striking a necessary equilibrium between opposing interests within the field. Part I includes a
number of introductory writings and lays out the book’s overarching research framework.
Part II is devoted to discussing the need for an institutional balance within EU criminal law;
here chapters explore the entangled relationship between EU institutions and the ever-problematic
issue of competence to legislate in criminal matters. Samuli Miettinen explores the distribution of
competence between the EU and the Member States in light of the principle of conferral, while
Pedro Caeiro highlights the ‘prescriptive’ nature of EU’s penal jurisdiction along with some
important gaps in the Treaty’s legal basis as regards the criminal protection of Union’s ‘institu-
tional’ legal interests.
Both Irene Wieczorek and Eugenio Selvaggi critically analyse the principle of subsidiarity as
providing criteria to assess the need for EU penal intervention and legitimise prospective law-
making. Yet EU’s competences are all but monolithic and the Court of Justice of the European
New Journal of European Criminal Law
2020, Vol. 11(4) 528–530
ªThe Author(s) 2020
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