Vivien Whyte and Dumitru Fornea met with Mr José Antonio Moreno Díaz (Spain), President of the European Economic and Social Committee’s Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law.
The Group, created in January 2018, is « a horizontal body within the EESC tasked to provide a forum for European civil society organizations to meet and share their assessment on the state of fundamental rights, democracy and rule of law in the Member States ». As such, they are visiting European countries to consult with civil society (e.g. Poland last December https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/news-media/news/strong-democracy-must-allow-criticism).
This year, the Group will visit more countries and present a report on their findings. President Whyte ensured Mr. Moreno Diaz of the EUR’s interest and willingness to contribute to the Group’s work.
The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss EUR proposals as included in the White Paper for a Rechtspfleger for Europe as well as the situation of non-judge staff in several countries where they are currently facing particular difficulties (Romania, Spain, Portugal…).
Vivien Whyte and Dumitru Fornea also met with Mr Arno Metzler (Germany), President of EESC’s Diversity Europe Group to discuss issues of common interest and how to advance in the pursuit of our goals.
Finally, Vivien Whyte and Dumitru Fornea presented their congratulations to Mr Oliver Röpke (Austria) on his election as President of EESC’s Workers Group. Mr Röpke will be replacing Ms Gabriele Bischoff (Germany), a candidate for the European Parliament. He vowed to « continue fighting for democracy and decent living and working conditions for all workers in Europe ».
EUR will keep working with the European Economic and Social Committee towards further recognition and involvement of our professions in upholding the rule of law in Europe.
Following the request of Maltese authorities, the CEPEJ has launched a project to support the efficiency of Justice in Malta. An Italian judge, a judge of the Slovenian Supreme Court, the Head of support at Federal prosecution services in Belgium and EUR Treasurer Catherine Assioma, Deputy Head of Court services in France are the experts for this mission.
The project is funded by the SRSS (Structural Reform Support Service) of the EU.
The main objective of this first meeting was to gather as much materials and information as possible and understand the expectations of the Maltese stakeholders, before being able to propose solutions based on the experts’ own models.
We have met a large panel of participants, judges and magistrates, the Deputy Head of the Court and the IT general manager.
The mission includes two main components in order to reduce the length of procedures, one is to identify improvements and formulate recommendations regarding procedures in the Court of Appeal Superior Jurisdiction, the other is to support the development of human resources strategy for judicial and support staff.
The experts will release a first report at the end of March, before their next visit in Valletta end of April.
The CEPEJ Working Group on Evaluation met in Paris under the presidency of Mr Jasa Vrabek (Slovenia) to prepare the next cycle of evaluation of the European judicial systems. The questionnaire and explanatory note were reviewed in the light of the recent exercise. This work is being led in conjunction with preparations for a CEPEJ glossary by an ad hoc group. EUR President Vivien Whyte made several proposals both on the Report and the definitions.
The Working Group also discussed several cooperation projects with the European Commission. President Whyte noted that data on Rechtspfleger and other non-judge staff are available and should be included in the analysis of legal systems.
The Secretariat reported on the Peer Review Mission in Andorra led by CEPEJ on 10 and 11 December 2018. The objective of the peer evaluation is « to reinforce the credibility of the data collected in the framework of the evaluation exercise aimed at European judicial systems. It also gives the opportunity to States in which the visits are conducted, to facilitate exchanges of experiences between the national judicial statistics systems, to share good practices and to identify common indicators ». Countries that would wish to participate in such an evaluation are invited to contact the Secretariat.
President Vivien Whyte attended the General Assembly of the European Land Registry Association (ELRA) that took place in Brussels on 30 November 2018.
The event included a very interesting discussion on the nature of land registry data, moderated by Professor Teresa Rodriguez de las Heras of the University Carlos III (Madrid), a représentative from the European Commission and representatives from land registries in Portugal, Ireland and the Netherlands. The intricate nature of land registry data, combining personal and nonpersonal data, gives rise to numerous issues when considering the new GDPR regulation. Free movement of data has to be balanced with lawfulness of data usage. As such, a middle ground needs to be found between an open-data system and a controlled access system, defining a data access model that would give the opportunity to filter.
After the European Justice Stakeholders Forum, EUR President Vivien Whyte and Treasurer Catherine Assioma attended an event organized by the International Bar Association at the European Parliament on “What makes for a healthy democracy?”
Mr Michał Boni MEP hosted the event, which included keynote speeches from several other European political leaders.
On 6 November 2018, Mr Arno Metzler, President Group III, EESC, hosted the third annual plenary of the European Justice Stakeholders Forum on the theme: Upholding the EU values in Article 2 TEU. President Metzler insisted on the importance of equality before the law and protection. Indeed, protection is sometimes not adequate. That is why Group III has launched a campaign against populism.
Continuing the SEJ II project, President Vivien Whyte and Dr Marco Fabri led a seminar with Court Presidents, Chancellors, Legal Secretaries and Legal Advisors to present the findings and recommendations of the report they drafted after their visit to Tirana in November 2017.