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Benedetta Arrighini

GEM-DIAMOND doctoral fellow

ESR 11 – Legal contestation on the rule of law and its impact on EU cooperation in criminal matters with third parties: EU-MERCOSUR

Always interested in Criminal Law and European Law, with a special focus on External relation, I found my perfect combination with my research project: Judicial Cooperation in Criminal matters within Third States-the case of EU and MERCOSUR.
I will discuss about the impact on the rule of law in the field of the EU’s international agreements, as the one with MERCOSUR.
Legal contestation on this topic is fundamental to aware the EU the importance of the rule of law, and to improve the concept of dissensus in the EU democracy.

Host Institutions

Breaking or branching with Brazil?
The legal contestation of the rule of law and EU’s cooperation in criminal matters with Mercosur. A case-study


  • Anne Weyembergh
  • Paula Almeida
  • Rossella Sabia

Research abstract

The research aims to investigate the cooperation in criminal matters within the EU and Mercosur and between the two by focusing on the impact on the rule of law and reverse, meaning how the rule of law impacts cooperation. Two complex issues arise. Firstly, the tense but also interdependent relationship between cooperation in criminal matters and the rule of law: cooperation is necessary to combat crime, and it contributes to the enhancement of the rule of law, but it is also dangerous because it is not certain that the other cooperating state complains with fundamental rights; on the other side, the rule of law can enhance cooperation - they have a mutual and complex relation. Secondly, the presence of two regional entities, the EU and Mercosur, with different systems, contexts, and competences. For this reason, the research delves into comparing the two regions and then examines inter-regional relations.

To initiate, a brief contextualization. The EU Area of Freedom Security and Justice (AFSJ) is an advanced model of cooperation based on mutual trust and the sharing of common values among Member States. The way forward is still long, yet the degree of cooperation in the EU is much higher compared to other regions, specifically, Mercosur. In fact, in Mercosur cooperation in criminal matters receives less attention, and the Member States’ mutual trust is fragile, if not non-existent. However, despite the EU’s advanced system, the region is experiencing a contestation of its values by some EU Member States themselves, which is leading to a decline in mutual trust, and this is affecting cooperation in criminal matters too. Decreasing trust within the EU can influence the trust the EU has in its relations with third states, in this case with the regions, which was already low from the start. Consequently, if the EU has low trust internally, this affects the already low trust externally and this complicates cooperation – there is a direct proportionality relationship between the internal and the external EU trust. On the other side of the ocean, the democracies of Mercosur’s states are precarious, and this impedes the potential increase of trust within the region. In brief, both regions encounter trust issues: more specifically, in the EU, there is an increasing distrust, and in Mercosur, an endemic low trust. This context can impede an interregional project. The solution is not to put the problem aside but to tackle it by analysing it.

The best way to understand and convey a topic that may seem abstract, and extremely far removed from the common imagination, is to pick a concrete situation. On this wave, the dissertation will explain this tense relationship by scrutinising two mechanisms of cooperation, Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance: from which perspective these two mechanisms can impact and be impacted by the rule of law? To achieve a deeper understanding of the problem, one must narrow the wide and abstract concept of the rule of law. Consequently, the analysis will focus on the fundamental rights of the suspect and the accused person targeted by the two abovementioned cooperation mechanisms in criminal matters. More specifically, this research will focus on two fundamental rights at risk: the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to a fair trial.

Research Question(s)

How is the rule of law reflected in the EU-Mercosur cooperation in criminal matters inside and outside regional borders?

Research Hypothesis(es)

The EU should implement the cooperation in criminal matters outside its borders, without forgetting an impact assessment concerning the rule of law.
No cooperation without the rule of law but also no rule of law without cooperation.

Personal Research Bibliography (So Far)

Cooperation In Criminal Matters
Alcantara, Guilherme Goncalves; Florestan Prado, ‘The Constitution Means What the Supreme Court Says It Means: But Only When I Want: About How (Not to) Work with Precedents’ Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 3, no. 1 (January/April 2017): 343-366
Brodowski, Dominik. «Judicial Cooperation between the EU and Non-Member States». New Journal of European Criminal Law 2, fasc. 1 (marzo 2011): 21–44.
Patrick Cacicedo, "The Judicial Control of Criminal Execution in Brazil: Ambiguities and Contradictions of a Perverse Relationship," Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 4, no. 1 (January/April 2018): 413-434
Caeiro, Pedro. «Editorial do dossiê “Cooperação Judiciária Internacional em Matéria Penal” - Problemas actuais em perspectiva global». Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 5, fasc. 2 (30 giugno 2019): 553–63.
Costa, Miguel João. «Policies of International Friendship in Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters: The Non-Extradition of Brazilian and Portuguese Nationals to Third States – A Comparison with EU Law». Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 5, fasc. 2 (30 giugno 2019): 773–817.
———. «The Emerging EU Extradition Law. Petruhhin and Beyond». New Journal of European Criminal Law 8, fasc. 2 (giugno 2017): 192–215.
Cremona, Marise. «EU External Action in the JHA Domain: A Legal Perspective». SSRN Electronic Journal, 2008.
Garrol, Lucas Ribeiro. "Cattle Theft, Criminal Action and Non-State Justice: The Birth of Public Penal Action Conditionate to Representation in Brazil (1860-1899)," Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 5, no. 2 (May/August 2019): 1107-1148
Gilbert, Geoff. Aspects of extradition law. International studies in human rights, v. 17. Dordrecht, Netherlands ; Boston : Norwell, MA, U.S.A: M. Nijhoff ; Sold and distributed in the U.S.A. and Canada by Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.
European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation. Guidelines on Joint Investigation Teams Involving Third Countries: June 2022. LU: Publications Office, 2022.
Herrera, Clara Burbano, e Yves Haeck. «The Historical and Present-Day Role of Non-Governmental Organisations before the Inter-American Human Rights System in Documenting Serious Human Rights Violations and Protecting Human Rights and the Rule of Law Through Ensuring Accountability». Utrecht Law Review 17, fasc. 2 (7 ottobre 2021): 8–25.
Eurojust. Joint Report of Eurojust and the EJN on the Extradition of EU Citizens to Third Countries: November 2020. LU: Publications Office, 2020.
Kostoris, Roberto E., a c. di. Handbook of European Criminal Procedure. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2018.
«Manual on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition», United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, Vienna 2012.
Mitsilegas, Valsamis. «Internal and External Dimensions of Trust in Europe’s Area of Criminal Justice», revised and extended version of V. Mitsilegas, ‘Judicial concepts of trust in Europe’s multi‐level security governance’. From Melloni to Schrems via Opinion 2/13’ in EUCRIM –The European Criminal Law Associations’ Forum, Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Law, no 3, 2015, pp. 90‐95
Mitsilegass, Valsamis. «The European Model of Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters: Towards Effectiveness Based on Earned Trust», Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 5, no. 2 (May/August 2019): 565-596
Montaldo, Stefano. «Reabilitação e Transferência Internacional de Prisioneiros e Pessoas Sujeitas a Medidas Restritivas e Penas Alternativas: Uma Questão Problemática Para a Cooperação Judiciária Na UE Em Matéria Penal». Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 5, fasc. 2 (30 giugno 2019): 925–60.
Ruggeri, Stefano, a c. di. Transnational Inquiries and the Protection of Fundamental Rights in Criminal Proceedings. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013.
Teixeira, Arley Fernandes. «O perdio do ofendido na cultura juridico-penal brasileira do seculo XIX: negociação no seculo da justitia publica?’», s.d.
Vara, Juan Santos. «The External Activities of AFSJ Agencies: The Weakness of Democratic and Judicial Controls». European Foreign Affairs Review 20, fasc. Issue 1 (1 febbraio 2015): 118–36.
Vervaele, John A E. «EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION AND THE SECURITY PARADIGM», International Law review, 19.
———,«Ne Bis In Idem: Towards a Transnational Constitutional Principle in the EU?» Utrecht Law Review 9, fasc. 4 (26 settembre 2013): 211.
———. «The Transnational Ne Bis in Idem Principle in the EU. Mutual Recognition and Equivalent Protection of Human Rights». Utrecht Law Review 1, fasc. 2 (6 dicembre 2005): 100.
Wade, Marianne L. «General Principles of Transnationalised Criminal Justice?Exploratory Reflections». Utrecht Law Review 9, fasc. 4 (26 settembre 2013): 165.
Wessel, Ramses A., Luisa Marin, e Claudio Matera. «The External Dimension of the EU’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice». In Crime within the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, a cura di Christina Eckes e Theodore Konstadinides, 1a ed., 272–300. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Wildner Zambiasi, Vinícius, e Paloma Marita Cavol Klee. «A (possibilidade de) não execução do mandado de detenção europeu fundamentada no tratamento ou pena cruel ou degradante». Revista Brasileira de Direito Processual Penal 4, fasc. 2 (17 giugno 2018): 845.
Álvarez, Servando A. «Estado y poder: una visión de América Latina en el siglo XX», Volumen XXIX, n.os 57-58, junio-diciembre de 2006, 29.
Balfour, Rosa, Lizza Bomassi, e Marta Martinelli. «The Southern Mirror: Reflections on Europe From the Global South», 2022 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Donadio, Luciano, e Carlos Espósito. «Inter-Jurisdictional Co-Operation in the MERCOSUR: The First Request for an Advisory Opinion of the MERCOSUR’s Permanent Review Tribunal by Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice». The Law & Practice of International Courts and Tribunals 10, fasc. 2 (2011): 261–84.
European Commission. Directorate General for Trade. e LSE. Sustainability Impact Assessment in Support of the Association Agreement Negotiations between the European Union and Mercosur: Final Report. LU: Publications Office, 2022.
Malamud, Andrés. European Parliament. Directorate General for External Policies of the Union. ‘Assessing the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Pillar of the EU-Mercosur Association’Agreement: Towards a Bi Regional Strategic Partnership? : In Depth Analysis. LU: Publications Office, 2022.
Malamud, Andrés, e Miguel de Luca. «An Old World Yet to Discover? European Studies in the Latin American Southern Cone». European Political Science 11, fasc. 3 (settembre 2012): 325–36.
Mata Diz, Jamile. «The Mercosur and European Union Relationship: An Analysis on the Incorporation of the Association Agreement in Mercosur». Europe and the World: A Law Review 6, fasc. 1 (11 maggio 2022).
Orcalli, Gabriele. «MERCOSUR Common Market Building: Harmonization and (or) Mutual Recognition of Rules». Nueva Época, 2018, 18.
Vauthier Borges de Macedo, Paulo Emílio. «The Foundational Myth of Mercosur and the European Union Analogy». German Law Journal 20, fasc. 05 (luglio 2019): 734–47.

Albi, Anneli, e Samo Bardutzky, a c. di. National Constitutions in European and Global Governance: Democracy, Rights, the Rule of Law: National Reports. The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press, 2019.
Coman, Ramona. «Strengthening the Rule of Law at the Supranational Level: The Rise and Consolidation of a European Network». Journal of Contemporary European Studies 24, fasc. 1 (2 gennaio 2016): 171–88.
———. The Politics of the Rule of Law in the EU Polity: Actors, Tools and Challenges. Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2022.
Gilder, Alexander. «UN Peace Operations and the Role of the Local in (Re)Building the Rule of Law». Utrecht Law Review 17, fasc. 2 (7 ottobre 2021): 70–86.
Govaere, Inge. «Promoting the Rule of Law in EU External Relations: A Conceptual Framework», Research Paper in Law, College of Europe, 3/2022.
Poiares Maduro, Miguel. «So Close and yet so Far: The Paradoxes of Mutual Recognition». Journal of European Public Policy 14, fasc. 5 (agosto 2007): 814–25.
Staton, Jeffrey K. « Rule-of-Law Concepts and Rule-of-Law Models, Justice System Journal, 33:2, 235-241,
Stein, Robert. «What Exactly Is the Rule of Law?» HOUSTON LAW REVIEW, 2019, 18.

Personal Methods-Specific Bibliography (So Far)


Bailleux, Antoine, e François Ost. «Droit, contexte et interdisciplinarité : refondation d’une démarche». Revue interdisciplinaire d’études juridiques 70, fasc. 1 (2013): 25.

Bielen, Samantha, e Peter Grajzl. «Prosecution or Persecution? Extraneous Events and Prosecutorial Decisions». Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 18, fasc. 4 (dicembre 2021): 765–800.

Corten, Olivier. Méthodologie du droit international public. Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 2017.

Duve, Thomas. «Entanglements in Legal History: Conceptual Approaches», s.d., 580.
Kestemont, Lina. Handbook on Legal Methodology. Cambridge: Intersentia, 2018.

Kroeze, Ij. «Legal Research Methodology and the Dream of Interdisciplinarity». Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal/Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad 16, fasc. 3 (19 settembre 2013): 35–65.

Landowski, Éric. «Sémiotique du droit : interdisciplinarité et pertinence». Revue interdisciplinaire d’études juridiques 21, fasc. 2 (1988): 125.

Maatsch, Aleksandra. «Effectiveness of the European Semester: Explaining Domestic Consent and Contestation». Parliamentary Affairs 70, fasc. 4 (1 ottobre 2017): 691–709.

Mulcahy, Sean. «Methodologies of Law as Performance». Law and Humanities 16, fasc. 2 (3 luglio 2022): 165–82.

Ragin, Charles C. «The Comparative Method, Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies», 2014, University of California.


Sacco, Rodolfo. «Diversity and Uniformity in the Law». The American Journal of Comparative Law 49, fasc. 2 (2001): 171.

Selznick, Philip. «“Law in Context” Revisited». Journal of Law and Society 30, fasc. 2 (giugno 2003): 177–86.

Zumbansen, Peer. «Transnational Legal Pluralism». Transnational Legal Theory 1, fasc. 2 (luglio 2010): 141–89.

Selected Case Studies

Comparative Regionalism and cooperation in criminal matters' mechanisms: Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance
There will be a focus on the EU and Mercosur and an analysis of their system of cooperation within their borders. On this, the analysis of the EU region will focus on the crucial role of mutual trust and the mounting distrust. Then, section two will analyse the European Arrest Warrant and the European Investigation Order. In the fourth chapter, I will inquire Mercosur system, characterized by an intergovernmental approach to cooperation in criminal matters. In this, there will be the analysis of Mercosur’s conventions, and projects to implement cooperation. The empirical method will serve the entire title: both the EU and Mercosur’s actors will be interviewed to achieve a better understanding of the issues at stake.
In this, it is necessary to understand how two divergent approaches (one based on mutual trust and the other on the absence of it) are both struggling at this moment. Today, there is a growing distrust in the EU, which heightens the risk of member states violating the rule of law. Consequently, EU instruments like the European Arrest Warrant and the European Investigation Order could potentially impact negatively fundamental rights. Indeed, the erosion of trust is a consequence of these developments. On the other side, Mercosur relations in criminal matters between states remain fragile and the concept of trust does not receive the same consideration. This could be defined as ‘weak trust’ which is, as well, impeding smoother cooperation.

Interregionalism and cooperation in criminal matters - the case of Brazil.
BRAZIL - has been chosen as the case study of the research for the following reasons. On this, it must be highlighted that Brazil is the most impactful country within the South Market. To this regard, Brazil accounts for 80% of Mercosur’s population and 80 percent of its total GDP, additionally, there are three factors which turn it into a dealmaker – or deal -breaker: its strong agribusiness sector (which favors the agreement), its powerful industrial lobby (which is more apprehensive), and its coverage of 60% of the Amazon rainforest (whose deforestation is one of the main obstacles to the finalization and
ratification of the agreement).’ Moreover, the Brazilian case is exemplary also for the political history of the country, even in recent years. The change of government Bolsonaro – Lula da Silva will, without doubt, influence the analysis of the research. The interesting Brazilian democracy's recent history will be a plus in the research concerning the cooperation with the EU. Furthermore, the possibility of conducting research in the field, meaning going to the FGV University in Rio De Janeiro clearly contributed to the delimitation of the research focusing on Brazil. The state of Brazil will be the subject of analysis, more precisely its judicial systems and its cooperation with other countries, meaning, the criminal cooperation with Mercosur, Latin America, and at the cross- continental level, particularly focusing on the relation with the EU.
Benedetta Arrighini is a law graduate at the University of Trento with a thesis in International Criminal law under the supervision of Professor Gabriele Fornasari: Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, origin, development and perspective of an hybrid tribunal. In this research she compared the transitional justice model of South American countries with the Kosovo’s future process. The thesis was published as a book in 2021.

During university she did a traineeship at the European Parliament, working in CULT and ECON Committees. Moreover she was an Erasmus Student in the Law faculty of Montpellier/1. While she was writing her thesis, she did a traineeship with the think tank Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso e Transeuropa in which she wrote article about the EU-Western Balkans relations. After graduation she started legal practice in Criminal law.

In 2021-2022 she was an L.L.M student at the College of Europe and she wrote a thesis in European Criminal Law under the supervision of Professor John A.E. Vervaele discussing the Foreign Terrorist Fighters’ Directive and the impact on the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.

She was accepted as GEM DIAMOND Fellow in the Research Position 11, supervised by Professor Anne Weyembergh (ULB) and Professor Paula Almeida (FGV), and Prof. Rossella Sabia (LUISS)