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Key facts of the case:
  1. This reference for a preliminary ruling requests the Court to interpret and, if necessary, to assess the validity of Article 4a(1) of Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States, (2) as amended by Council Framework Decision 2009/299/JHA of 26 February 2009, (3) thereby enhancing the procedural rights of persons and fostering the application of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions rendered in the absence of the person concerned at the trial (‘the Framework Decision’). It also asks the Court to define, for the first time, the scope of Article 53 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’). 
  2. This case is a good illustration of how the coexistence of the various instruments protecting fundamental rights should be provided for. It has its origin in case-law of the Tribunal Constitucional (Constitutional Court) (Spain) according to which the execution of a European arrest warrant issued for the purposes of executing a judgment in absentia must always be subject to the condition that the convicted person is entitled to a retrial in the issuing Member State. However, Article 4a(1) of the Framework Decision provides, inter alia, that, where such a person has been aware of the intended proceedings and has given a mandate to a lawyer to represent him in order to defend him at that trial, surrender may not be subject to a condition of that kind. 
  3. By the three questions which it has decided to put to the Court, the Tribunal Constitucional invites it to assess the various approaches which might allow it to retain its case-law, including in the implementation of the Framework Decision. Several paths will therefore have to be explored. 
  4. Therefore, may the general application of the condition that the execution of a European arrest warrant issued for the purposes of executing a judgment in absentia requires that the convicted person be entitled to a retrial in the issuing Member State be derived from an interpretation of the wording, scheme or objectives of Article 4a of the Framework Decision? 
  5. If not, is that article compatible with the second paragraph of Article 47 and Article 48(2) of the Charter, which guarantee the accused, respectively, the right to a fair trial and respect for the rights of the defence? In addition, must European Union law grant those fundamental rights more extensive protection than the level of protection given to them by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 (‘the ECHR’)? 
  6. If the examination of the first two questions shows that Article 4a(1) of the Framework Decision, considered in the light of the second paragraph of Article 47 and Article 48(2) of the Charter, precludes the Tribunal Constitucional from retaining its case-law in the sphere of the European arrest warrant, does Article 53 of the Charter offer it that opportunity?
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
  1. Article 4a(1)(a) and (b) of Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States, as amended by Council Framework Decision 2009/299/JHA of 26 February 2009, is to be interpreted as precluding the executing judicial authority, in the circumstances specified in that provision, from making the execution of a European arrest warrant conditional upon the person who is the subject of the warrant being entitled to a retrial in the issuing Member State.
  2. Article 4a(1) of Framework Decision 2002/584, as amended by Framework Decision 2009/299, is compatible with the second paragraph of Article 47 and Article 48(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. 
  3. Article 53 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union does not allow the executing judicial authority, pursuant to its national constitutional law, to make the execution of a European arrest warrant conditional upon the person who is the subject of the warrant being entitled to a retrial in the issuing Member State, where the application of such a condition is not authorised by Article 4a(1) of Framework Decision 2002/584, as amended by Framework Decision 2009/299.