Brussels, 12 April 2018: meeting with the European Commission

Following the conference organized by the EUR and the European Economic and Social Committee on 15 March, Vivien Whyte met on 12 April with five representatives of the European Commission, including Niovi Ringou, deputy head of the Justice Policy Unit of the Directorate General of Justice and Ms Diana Ungureanu, member of the General Criminal Justice and Judicial Training Unit.

Vivien Whyte presented the results of the conference on 15 March, stressing the convergence of views between the EESC and the EUR on the indispensable nature of the Greffier / Rechtspfleger in the preservation of the rule of law and democracy.
Vivien Whyte noted that the annual Justice Scoreboard published by the European Commission omitted the Greffier and Rechtspfleger and, in so doing, did not give a fair picture of how justice works in the EU Member States. Indeed, the number of judges per capita in Austria is not comparable with the number of judges per capita in France because in Austria 80% of civil cases are handled by the Rechtspfleger. In addition, the judicial system would not work if the judge did not have qualified professionals at his side. The number of judges must therefore be related to the number of non-judge staff.
He also noted that if the training of judges in European Union Law is essential, their decisions can only be applied if non-judge staff are themselves trained in these matters. The data on the training of judges should therefore be related to those on the training of non-judge staff provided by the European Commission in connection with several European training centres.

Vivien Whyte also recalled the main differences between the categories of non-judge staff today and detailed the proposals contained in the White Paper for a Greffier / Rechtspfleger for Europe. He insisted on the necessary guarantees of independence, on the need for adequate remuneration and on the indispensable common base of initial training. The economic reason for using Rechtspfleger was discussed and compared with the qualitative reason, with countries with Rechtspfleger or a similar system showing the best results in terms of efficiency and quality according to the Scoreboard itself.

Lastly, Vivien Whyte recalled that the Greffier, Rechtspfleger and similar professions were not opposed to the increasing computerization of justice, which they see as an opportunity to redefine their missions. The example of the Spanish Letrados of Judicial Administration, who have positioned themselves at the heart of digital justice in their country has particularly interested the Commission.

Vivien Whyte recalled the availability of the EUR to work with the Commission on improving the Justice Scoreboard as well as training on European Union law or on any other element of the European Semester such as e-Justice.

The basis for an effective dialogue with the Commission has been laid and it has been agreed that participants shall meet regularly.