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EU presents review of EU justice systems

10 April 2017, 16:45 CET
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EU presents review of EU justice systems

Vera Jourova - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - European justice systems received their annual inspection Monday, with the EU's Justice Scoreboard assessing the length of criminal court proceedings relating to money laundering for the first time.

The aim of the EU Justice Scoreboard, which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in the EU Member States, is to help national authorities improve the effectiveness of their justice systems.

"Effective justice systems are essential to build trust in a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market" said Vera Jourova, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "I encourage Member States to ensure that any justice reform respects the rule of law and judicial independence."

The 2017 Scoreboard looks into new aspects of the functioning of justice systems, for example, how easily consumers can access justice and which channels they use to submit complaints against companies. For the first time, it also shows the length of criminal court proceedings relating to money laundering offences.

Stand-out elements of the scoreboard are that the efficiency of justice systems remains a problem in some member states, which continue to have the largest backlog of of pending cases in civil and commercial disputes over the years.

But Italy has shown progress, with a drop of 30 per cent in the number of pending cases since 2010.

Spain 's performance in access to justice remains high, as nobody has to pay court fees, and citizens with an income above the poverty line are able to receive legal aid.

Findings of the 2017 edition include:

  • Shorter civil and commercial court proceedings: including in a number of Member States whose justice systems are facing challenges. This improvement is clearer over the five-year period than in the short-term.
  • Analysis of consumer protection enforcement: Member States are responsible for the enforcement of EU consumer law. The Scoreboard shows that the length of administrative proceedings and judicial review in this field varies a lot depending on the country. It also shows that many consumer issues are solved directly by consumer authorities and they don't need to go to courts.
  • Analysis of the fight against money laundering: As required by the 4th Anti-Money Laundering directive, Member States have provided for the first time data in this area. It shows a large variation in case length – from less than half a year to almost three years- for proceedings dealing with anti-money laundering offences.
  • Limited access to justice for poorer citizens: the Scoreboard shows that in some Member States, citizens whose income is below the poverty threshold do not receive any legal aid in some types of disputes.
  • Use of ICT tools still limited in some countries: while it's widely used for communication between courts and lawyers in half of the Member States, the use of ICT for electronic signature is very limited in over half the EU countries. New data on how lawyers use ICT when communicating with courts again underlines the importance of electronic communication for well-functioning justice systems.
  • Improved or stable perception of judicial independence among the general public: this is the case in more than two-thirds of Member States, compared to 2016. The trend is the same for businesses' perception since 2010. Among the reasons for the perceived lack of independence of courts and judges, the interference or pressure from government and politicians was the most stated reason. The 2017 edition also presents data on the safeguards in place in the different Member States to guarantee the judicial independence of judges. This reflects the strong importance of rule of law for the EU.
  • Quality standards: Most Member States have standards fixing time limits or timeframes to avoid lengthy judicial proceedings. However, such standards are not in place in certain Member States with less efficient justice systems.
2017 EU Justice Scoreboard

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