European Union: new directive on harmonization of criminal penalties for conduct infringing EU restrictive rules

Directive 2024/1226: Harmonization of criminal penalties for conduct in violation of restrictive European Union rules

In order to ensure the effective implementation of restrictive measures imposed by the European Union (hereinafter, “the Union”) to contribute to the promotion of the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the European Parliament and the Council have adopted Directive (EU) 2024/1226 of April 24, 2024 concerning the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of the Union´s restrictive measures and amending Directive (EU) 2018/1673 (hereinafter the “Directive 2024/1226”). It is intended to harmonize the criminal response to violations of such measures.

The most relevant aspects regulated in Directive 2024/1226 include the following:

  • Criminalization of the violation of restrictive measures imposed by the Union:

Member States must ensure that conduct which is intentional and in breach of a prohibition or obligation constituting a Union restrictive measure or which is provided for in a national provision implementing a European restrictive measure, constitutes a criminal offence. Also if they are carried out with serious negligence.

  • Dissuasive and proportionate penalties:

The sanctions applicable to natural and legal persons for offenses related to the violation of the Union´s restrictive measures must be dissuasive and proportionate.

In the case of natural persons, minimum levels are established for the maximum prison sentence applicable. Accessory sanctions are also provided for, such as proportional fines, withdrawal of permits, disqualification, temporary prohibition from public office and publication of court decisions.

In the case of legal entities, their liability does not preclude criminal proceedings against individuals involved in the offenses. In addition, they may receive criminal or non-criminal sanctions or measures, such as exclusion from public benefits, disqualification from receiving public funding, judicial supervision, and dissolution. Although no minimum levels of fines are set for legal persons, the applicable fines must be proportionate to the gravity of the conduct and the circumstances of each one of them. Member States may set maximum levels of fines based on the worldwide business volume or fixed amounts. If fixed amounts are used, they need not reach the minimum levels set out in the Directive.

In order to determine the levels of penalties to be imposed, the Directive includes aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

  • Instruments:

To ensure effective investigation and prosecution of violations of the Union´s restrictive measures, Directive 2024/1226 provides that Member States’ authorities must have at their disposal relevant and effective investigative tools similar to those existing in their national law.

In addition, Directive 2024/1226 must ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to enable persons providing information to use confidential channels and to alert the competent authorities without suffering retaliations.

  • Cooperation and coordination:

Directive 2024/1226 requires Member States to appoint a body responsible for ensuring the coordination and cooperation between the competent national authorities, as well as ensuring cooperation between the competent authorities of the Member States and the Commission, Europol, Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

  • Transposition period:

Member States have one year to transpose the Directive into their national legislation.



More information:

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