On 24 May, President Vivien Whyte represented the EUR at the 27th General Assembly of the European Land Registry Association at Scotland House in Brussels.
This event brought together the 33 member countries of the Association as well as representatives of various institutions such as the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the Centre for Notarial Studies of the Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra.
On 15 May 2019, President Vivien Whyte met Mr Marcel Haag, Director in charge of the European Semester and Mr Julien Mousnier, Head of the Citizens ‘Rights and Consumers’ Rights and Rule of Law Unit of the Secretariat General of the European Commission.
This meeting is part of EUR’s effort to give visibility to Rechtspfleger and other non-judge staff in the operational documents of the European Union. Indeed, these professions are essential to the functioning of the courts and thus of the economy. They also ensure a fundamental role as a link between citizens and their justice, strengthening public confidence in its institutions and thereby respect for the rule of law. In addition, in twelve Member States of the European Union, Rechtspfleger and similar professions relieve judges of a significant part of their work. By taking independent decisions in a variety of areas, they allow judges to focus on the most complex litigious cases.
On 14 March, Vivien Whyte met with Mr. Alvaro De Elera, Member of the Cabinet of the First Vice-President of the European Commission Mr. Frans Timmermans and presented him with a copy of the White Paper for a Rechtspfleger/Greffier for Europe.
As part of the regular meetings between the EUR and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Justice, Vivien Whyte met on 8 March with Ms. Niovi Ringou, head of the Justice Policy Unit to discuss possible evolutions in the content of the EU Justice Scoreboard.
Indeed, the Scoreboard presents figures on the efficiency of European justice systems, including the number of judges per 100 000 inhabitants, but does not mention Rechtspfleger or other non-judge staff. In all countries, non-judge staff are essential to the good functioning of courts. Variations in their numbers have a significant impact both in terms of efficiency and quality of justice. Thanks to their unique position close to the citizen, they are also a key element of public confidence.
In addition, in twelve EU Member States, Rechtspfleger or similar professions relieve judges from part of their workload, allowing them to focus on complex contentious cases. Data on this precious resource, which in some countries (Austria, Poland…) handle 80 % of civil cases, should be included in the Scoreboard to give an objective image of justice systems in the EU.
President Whyte developed these points again during the meeting and expressed his hope that they will be taken into consideration for the next edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard.
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.
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.
Following the conference organised by the EUR and the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels on 10 March 2018, Vivien Whyte met with President Arno Metzler in Brussels on 12 July 2018.
Mr Metzler, from Germany, is the new President of the « Diversity Europe » Group of the EESC. The Group comprises representatives and stakeholdes of civil society, particularly in the economic, civic, professional and cultural field. Its goal is to achieve « real participatory democracy in the European Union, through civil dialogue ». A lawyer by trade, President Metzler has first-hand knowledge of the Rechtspfleger.
The two Presidents discussed the current role of the Rechtspfleger and similar professions in the strengthening of justice systems across Europe. They also talked about possible EUR involvement in several EESC projects relating to the rule of law. Indeed, EUR proposals for a Rechtspfleger for Europe are in the straight line of current EESC activity in this area.