The adage is that the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is built on the principle of mutual trust: the presumption that Member States comply with fundamental rights save in exceptional circumstances. However, the very existence of the EAW rests on the proper interpretation and application of fundamental rights standards, and on sincere cooperation between judicial authorities.With that in mind, the present article gives a systemic analysis of the EAW. After outlining the key features of its functioning, the paper discusses the system of exceptions to surrender: mandatory and optional grounds for refusal in the EAW Framework Decision (FD), the fundamental rights exception, and cases of invalidity. As the EAW is based on automaticity, the exceptions define the traits of its identity. The article’s conclusions reveal the importance of sincere cooperation to strengthen mutual trust, with judicial independence as an essential precondition. The article’s comprehensive assessment offers an original contribution to the debate about judicial independence in EU law, the operation of the EAW and its role in the wider context of the Union as a legal order.