8 March 2019, Brussels: New Meeting with DG Justice

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.

27 February, Strasbourg – Council of Europe: World Non-Governmental Organizations Day

A conference – debate was held at the Council of Europe on the occasion of the World Day of Non – Governmental (International) Organizations.
Anna RURKA, President of the Conference of INGOs, opened this conference, which focused on “the contribution of (I)NGOs to the work and mandate of the Council of Europe”.
Both representatives of the Committee of Ministers and the Secretariat of the Council of Europe stressed the crucial role of the INGOs, representing civil society, who provide indispensable assistance to the work and missions of the Council of Europe.
Several INGO speakers at the Council of Europe illustrated this work, which was sometimes done at the cost of great difficulties or even reprisals in their country.
The comments and suggestions made during this debate will be forwarded to the Committee of Ministers for a conference to take place in Warsaw on 27 March 2019. The latter had already made a recommendation on the need to strengthen the protection and promotion of the space devoted to civil society in Europe (CM / Rec (2018) 11).

You will find under the following link a short speech by Mrs RURKA on this day: short statement.

Jean-Jacques Kuster represented the EUR.

7 February 2019, Brussels, Belgium: EUR discusses Fundamental Rights & Rule of Law at EESC

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…).

President Arno Metzler and Vivien Whyte

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.

1 February 2019, Valletta, Malta: CEPEJ Programme in Malta

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.

31 January – 1 February 2019, Paris, France: Meeting of the CEPEJ Working Group on Evaluation

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.

The Working Group will meet again in September.

3 – 4 December 2018, Counci l of Europe, Strasbourg: 31st CEPEJ Plenary Meeting

The meeting was chaired by Georg STAWA (Austria), President of the CEPEJ, who was completing his four-year term. The CEPEJ thanked him for his decisive action in developing the commission and giving it a leading role in the debate on the functioning of judicial systems in Europe and beyond.

The year 2018 was particularly dense for the CEPEJ in the light of the texts adopted and the publication in October 2018 of the report on “European Judicial Systems – 2018 Edition” which has had wide echoes both among public authorities and professionals of justice than media.

Continue reading 3 – 4 December 2018, Counci l of Europe, Strasbourg: 31st CEPEJ Plenary Meeting

30 November 2018, Brussels, Belgium: ELRA General Assembly

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.

Continue reading 30 November 2018, Brussels, Belgium: ELRA General Assembly

15 – 16 November 2018, Council of Europe, Strasbourg: CEPEJ Working Group on Mediation

The 4th meeting of the CEPEJ-GT-MED since its reactivation in early 2017 took place in Strasbourg on 15-16 November 2018.

After evaluating the use of its 2007 Guidelines on Mediation in the Member States, GT-MED decided in 2017 to develop a set of tools to complement the Guidelines, compiled in the form of a toolkit to develop mediation. This first version of the toolkit was adopted by the CEPEJ plenary in June 2018 (http://rm.coe.int/box-tools-for-the-development-of-mediation-make-up-thee/6808c3f53).

Continue reading 15 – 16 November 2018, Council of Europe, Strasbourg: CEPEJ Working Group on Mediation
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