EU JUSTICE SCOREBOARD 2021. THE DIGITALISATION OF JUSTICE

On 8 July, the European Commission published the 2021 EU Justice Scoreboard to secure and boost the digitalisation of justice like an important measure to keep Courts functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic and to make justice systems more accessible and efficient.

 

The EU Justice Scoreboard is an annual comparative information tool. Its purpose is to assist the EU and the Member States improve the effectiveness of their national justice systems by providing objective, reliable and comparable data on several indicators relevant for assessing the efficiencyquality and independence of justice systems in all Member States. 

 

The many Member States already have digital tools at the disposal of courts, prosecutors and staff members, but there is still a long way to go, and the Covid-19 pandemic showed us that there are still some challenges to face. 

 

The information contained in the EU Justice Scoreboard contributes to the monitoring carried out in the European Rule of Law Mechanism framework and feeds into the Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report.

 

The Scoreboard presents indicators concerning civil, commercial and administrative and criminal cases in specific areas where administrative authorities and courts apply EU law.

 

The importance of efficiency in some specific areas in EU law

 

Taking into account the relevance of competitionelectronic communicationsEU trademarkconsumer law and anti-money laundering in the single market and the business environment and how the long delays in judicial proceedings create adverse consequences on rights stemming from EU law, e.g. when appropriate remedies are no longer available or serious financial damages become irrecoverable, the efficiency of the justice system is an urgent necessity.

 

Competition 

 

Effective enforcement of competition law ensures a level playing field for businesses and is essential for an attractive business environment.

 

Electronic communications

 

The objective of EU electronic communications legislation is to raise competition, contribute to the development of the single market and generate investment, innovation and growth. The positive effects for consumers can be achieved through effective enforcement of this legislation, leading to lower end-user prices and better quality services.

 

EU trademark 

 

Effective enforcement of intellectual property rights is essential to stimulate investment in innovation. EU legislation on EU trademarks[3] gives a significant role to the national courts, which act as EU courts and affect the single market.

 

Consumer protection

 

Effective enforcement of consumer law ensures that consumers benefit from their rights and that companies infringing consumer laws do not gain an unfair advantage. Consumer protection authorities and courts play a crucial role in enforcing EU consumer law within the various national enforcement systems.

 

Money laundering 

 

The effectiveness of the fight against money laundering is crucial for the soundness, integrity and stability of the financial sector, confidence in the financial system and fair competition in the single market[5]. Money laundering can discourage foreign investment, distort international capital flows and negatively affect a country’s macroeconomic performance, resulting in welfare losses, draining resources from more productive economic activities. The Anti-money Laundering Directive requires the Member States to maintain statistics on the effectiveness of their systems to combat money laundering or terrorist financing.

 

Quality of Justice Systems 

 

The 2021 EU Justice Scoreboard to improve the quality of justice focuses on guaranteeing easy access to justice for citizens, sufficient resources, and practical assessment tools and digitalisation.

 

Accessibility 

 

People should have the right to obtain relevant information and access to justice. This is a challenge for the EU Justice Scoreboard since the litigation cost varies from one Member State to another. Litigation costs in civil and commercial matters are not harmonised at the EU level.

Most Member States require parties to pay a court fee when starting judicial proceedings.

 

Adequate and sufficient resources

 

For the good functioning of the justice system, it is essential to have sufficient resources, including the necessary investments in physical and technical infrastructure, and well-qualified, trained and adequately paid personnel.

 

Assessment tools

 

It is of particular importance to have evaluation tools that allow assessing the adequacy of the service to understand the needs of citizens better and guarantee their rights.

 

Digitalisation

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted several challenges affecting the functioning of the judiciary.

 

The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) are essential to strengthen the Member States’ justice systems and make them more accessible, efficient, resilient and ready to face current and future challenges.

 

The use of digital tools is necessary to secure electronic communication between courts/prosecution services and legal professionals and institutions. 

 

The innovative technology plays a vital role in supporting the work of judicial authorities, contributing to the quality of justice systems. The availability of various digital tools at the disposal of judges, prosecutors and judicial staff can streamline work processes, ensure fair workload allocation and lead to a significant time reduction.

 

Independence if the Judicial Systems

 

Judicial independence is a requirement stemming from the principle of adequate judicial protection referred to in Article 19 TEU and from the right to an effective remedy before a court or tribunal enshrined in Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights EU. 

 

External independence

 

The body concerned is bound to exercises its functions autonomously, without being subject to any hierarchical constraint or subordinated to any other body and without taking orders or instructions from any source whatsoever, thus being protected against external interventions or pressure liable to impair the independent judgment of its members and to influence their decisions.

 

Internal independence and impartiality

 

There should be no personal interest in the subject matter of the procedure to ensure impartiality.

 

The vital role of the independence of Bars and lawyers in the EU

 

Lawyers and their professional associations play a fundamental role in ensuring the protection of fundamental rights and strengthening the rule of law. 

 

Lawyers should be free to pursue their activities of advising and representing their clients. The lawyers’ membership of a liberal profession and the authority deriving from that membership helps to maintain independence, and bar associations play an important role in helping to guarantee lawyers’ independence. European standards require, among others, the freedom of exercise of the profession of lawyer, the independence of the bar associations and lay down the basic principles of disciplinary proceedings against lawyers.

 

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/es/ip_21_3523.

 

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/eu_justice_scoreboard_2021.pdf.

 

[3] Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2017 on the European Union trade mark (OJ L 154, 16.62017, p. 1-99).

 

[4]  Enforcement of the Unfair Terms Directive (93/13/EEC), the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive (1999/44/EC), the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (2005/29/EC) and the Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EC), and their national implementing provisions.

 

[5] Recital 2 of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for money laundering or terrorist financing.

 

[6]https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2018/03/08/Belgium-2018-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-Staff-Report-45708.

 

[7] Article 44(1) of the Directive (EU) 2015/849.

 

[8] Recommendation No. R(2000)21 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

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