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EU Criminal Law


Admission requirements

Students should be in their second or third year of legal studies. Prior knowledge of criminal law and EU law is highly recommended.


Organised crime does not know borders. In an increasingly integrated Europe there is therefore the need for cooperation in the field of criminal law. Cooperation between the Member States originates in the 1970s, but took largely place at an informal level, outside the framework of the European treaties. In fact, the EU as a form of predominantly economic integration, did not have any powers in the field of criminal law. At the same time – like any other area of law – Member State’s rules of criminal law and procedure had to comply with EU law. Moreover, the internal market rules may require criminal law enforcement. Fraud with European funds also required investigation and prosecution.

With the lifting of internal border checks as a result of the Schengen agreements, cooperation in the field of criminal law intensified. The lifting of border controls should not allow criminals to move freely. It was the Maastricht Treaty that first gave the EU limited powers for the harmonization of criminal law. These powers were reinforced by the Amsterdam Treaty with the integration of the Schengen rules into the EU legal framework. Slowly an EU criminal law acquis started emerging, in which Member States did not only cooperate, but also started to integrate their rules of criminal law and procedure. However, because powers in this field of criminal touch upon the Member States’ core understanding of sovereignty, integration was largely shaped in the form of instruments providing for mutual recognition.

The Lisbon Treaty formed the final step in the supra-nationalization of powers in the field of criminal law. It provides for powers in the field of substantive, as well as procedural law. In addition, it provides the legal basis for an institutional framework that is to support cooperation between the relevant authorities of the Member States (Europol, Eurojust). It even provides for the possibility to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide students with the foundations of the EU criminal law from three perspectives: Substantive, Procedural and Institutional. Using legislation, case law and literature these three angles will be studied from both a practical and theoretical perspective. In doing so, it should also raise students’ awareness of the impact of EU law on national systems of criminal law.

Achievement levels

After following this course, you are able to:

  • explain the basic characteristics of the field of EU criminal law;

  • explain the role of general principles of EU law, of fundamental rights and of legislative competences for the development and functioning of criminal law;

  • identify the different techniques of integration in the field of criminal law and to explain how they interrelate;

  • apply different examples of EU legislation in the field of substantive and procedural criminal law to practical case studies.

  • explain the importance of the EU law notion of ne bis in idem and the principle of mutual recognition for national criminal law systems;

  • explain the nature and functioning of European authorities in the field of criminal law.


The timetable for this course will be made available at uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 8

  • Names of lecturers: Dr. W. Geelhoed; Dr. J.J. Rijpma

  • Required preparation by students: reading of prescribed literature

Field trip

  • Number of field trips: 2

  • Participation is obligatory (in case of absence students are obliged to hand in an additional assignment in order to successfully complete the course)

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam (80% of final grade)

  • A paper of maximum 2.500 words (20% of final grade)

  • Students who fail the exam are entitled to sit a re-examination.

  • Depending on the number of students failing the exam, the re-sit may take the form of an oral exam.

  • The 20% case note grade will remain valid for the re-sit. If a student has not passed the course by the end of the academic year, partial grades for the written exam or paper are no longer valid.

Submission procedures of paper

  • A hard copy of the case note paper will need to be handed in during the last class and an electronic version will have to be uploaded on blackboard using safe assign.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature and case law) for the course and the content of the seminars.

More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Compulsory Course Materials

  • Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

Recommended Course Materials

  • A.H. Klip, European Criminal Law. An Integrative Approach (2nd edition), Antwerp: Intersentia, 2012.

  • A.H. Klip (ed.), Materials on European Criminal Law, Antwerp: Intersentia, 2012.

Course information guide
Will be made available on Blackboard.


  • All reading material (legislation, literature and case law) will be make available on Blackboard.


Students must register for courses and exams through uSis.
Students enrolled at another Dutch university than Leiden may obtain access to uSis, by first submitting the form Inschrijven als bijvak/gaststudent (only available in Dutch).

Contact information


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure

  • Secretary: Ms. P. Noordeloos (KOG, room C1.02)

  • Telephone number: 00 31 71 527 3506

  • Opening hours: Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri, 09:00-17:00

  • Email:


The language of instruction is English. As the course is mainly intended as a LLC-course, the number of participants who select this course as an elective course will be limited to ten.