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Two PhD positions in EU criminal law open at Utrecht University!

The Utrecht School of Law will be appointing two PhD researchers to engage in research on "The rise of EU law enforcement authorities - Protecting fundamental rights and liberties in a transnational law enforcement area". The application deadline is 11 March 2016.

For more information please consult:

Job description

The Utrecht School of Law will be appointing two PhD researchers to engage in research on EU law enforcement and the protection of fundamental rights.

EU authorities are increasingly performing law enforcement tasks. The European Central Bank and the European Securities and Markets Authority can both impose administrative fines on companies (banks; credit rating agencies) or refer cases to national authorities for prosecution. OLAF and Eurojust have coordinating and investigative tasks in the area of the investigation and prosecution of fraud against the financial interests of the EU fraud.

The powers of these authorities are still largely defined by the national laws of individual EU member States. The harmonization of laws takes place on a piecemeal basis. The legal frameworks for the authorities are decentralized and integrated into the national legal orders. By consequence, diverging or conflicting national laws, overlap and gaps in competences and a lack of supervision and coordination lead to wide discretionary margins for the authorities as to where (i.e. in which Member State) investigative and prosecutorial activities are deployed and, therefore, which legal regime applies (determining the powers, safeguards, defence rights, and remedies).

As differences between national regimes exist, conflicts of law, deliberate circumvention of safeguards (forum shopping) or races to the bottom may lead to arbitrary interferences with fundamental rights of individuals. This is precisely what fundamental rights aim to prevent within the nation-state. Yet in a transnational context, the content and scope of these rights are ill-defined.  While the existing legal frameworks substantially increase the degree of discretion for State or EU authorities, they simultaneously decrease legal certainty as to the applicable fundamental rights in criminal proceedings.

Both PhD projects (project 1: banking law; project 2: EU fraud/PIF) will perform a legal comparative analysis of how fundamental rights are integrated into the legal frameworks for ECB/ESMA, respectively OLAF/Eurojust. They will also determine how these authorities deal with the discretion that these frameworks leave them. The projects are part of a larger project that focuses on the protection of fundamental rights vis-à-vis EU authorities with law enforcement tasks.  A more detailed research plan is available upon request. 


The successful candidate should have a law degree and should be specialized in the field of European Union law, criminal law or, preferably, both. The applicant should have a particular interest in the relation between national criminal law, EU law and fundamental rights. As the research encompasses a comparative dimension (between EU law and national law, but also between the legal systems of a number of EU Member States), experience in doing comparative research will be considered an asset. This project may also involve parts of the research being carried out outside the Netherlands. The project is embedded in the RENFORCE – The Utrecht Centre for Shared Regulation and Enforcement in Europe. The successful candidate will participate in the activities of the centre.

The successful candidate should:

  • have a law degree;
  • be specialized in the field of EU (criminal) law;
  • have a strong motivation to do PhD research in this area;
  • be proficient in English;
  • have excellent scientific writing, planning and communication skills;
  • preferably have experience with the method of legal comparison;
  • preferably have experience with empirical methods of data gathering (interviews; observations).


Applicants are expected to send their current CV, a grade list and a cover letter outlining their motivation to do PhD research in this area, before 11 March 2016. They may be asked at a later stage during the procedure to write a memo describing how they would approach the topic.

Please also indicate in your motivation letter for which of the two projects (or both) you apply.