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Modernising EU justice systems

02 December 2020
by eub2 -- last modified 02 December 2020

The European Commission adopted oon 2 December a package of initiatives to modernise the EU justice systems. The two main pillars of the new package are a Communication on the digitalisation of justice in the EU, and a new Strategy on European judicial training.


Is the progress that Member States have already made with regard to the digitalisation of their justice systems not enough?

The Staff Working Document takes stock of the state of digitalisation of justice systems in the EU member states. This "digitalisation mapping" leads to the broad conclusion that there are many areas of the justice systems that could significantly benefit from digitalisation.

How will the EU support digitalisation of justice reforms in the context of the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and Next Generation EU?

IT projects are often complex and require substantial financial investments. In the past, the Commission has already demonstrated a commitment to supporting the digitalisation of justice, for example in the framework of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and through capacity building support under the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP).

Under the next Multiannual Financial Framework, the Commission intends to stay committed to supporting the digitalisation of justice, inter alia via the 2021-2027 cohesion policy instruments, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the Digital Europe Programme, and the Justice Programme.

The Communication refers to several new legislative initiatives. What are the Commission's main initiatives?

The Commission Work Programme for 2021 contains three legislative proposals, part of the "Digital judicial cooperation package", scheduled for adoption by the end of 2021:

  • Digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation: Through this proposal, the Commission aims to make the EU civil and criminal judicial cooperation instruments, such as the European Small Claims procedure and the European Arrest Warrant, "digitally ready". This would entail, for instance, making digital  communication between competent authorities as the default option. Where relevant, citizens and businesses should also be able to file claims and communicate with the competent authorities online. However, this would not exclude the possibility to continue communicating on paper.
  • Digital information exchange on cross-border terrorism cases: The initiative on digital information exchange on cross-border terrorism cases aims to allow for a more efficient exchange of information in the field of combating terrorism. It would do so by strengthening the role of Eurojust and by enhancing the functioning of the Counter Terrorism Register, while respecting the applicable data protection rules and standards.
  • Joint Investigation Teams collaboration platform: The Commission plans to adopt a proposal for the establishment of a common platform to support the functioning of Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). This would be accompanied by the creation of a dedicated IT tool which would facilitate sharing of information and evidence through a secured database and communication channel. This IT tool would also include a secure video-conferencing system that allows digital participation in the JITs. In addition, the proposal would establish a dedicated data protection regime for the personal data processed within the system and lay down the roles and responsibilities of the parties concerned.

Does the Communication address the challenges and risks inherent to the use of Artificial Intelligence technology by judicial authorities?

In several Member States AI-based applications are already used by judicial authorities. While the use of such applications can bring clear benefits when used for certain purposes, such as the anonymisation of documents, there are also considerable risks associated with their use, in particular when predicting outcomes of court cases ("predictive justice").

The Communication reiterates the Commission's assessment in this regard and takes stock of the benefits and opportunities offered by AI-based applications, balanced against the inherent risks surrounding the use of these applications.

How can the European Commission ensure full Member State participation in the interconnection of land registers?

The interconnection of Member States' land registers is an important project, which aims to provide a single access point on the European e-Justice Portal so that Citizens and professionals will be able to enquire and retrieve relevant information from national land registers in real-time through a single multi-lingual interface.  In a cross-border context, the interconnection of national land registers is essential for the protection of the ownership of property and may serve as a reliable source of information, supporting the well functioning of the EU's single market. Therefore, the Commission encourages the Member States to join this project, which is currently based on voluntary participation.

Why does Eurojust need a new Case Management System?

The Case Management System (CMS) is the main tool for the daily activities of the Eurojust National Desks, i.e. registration, handling and recording of all cases of cross-border judicial cooperation. However, it needs to be updated, because of limited functionalities, such as a need for extensive manual intervention and lack of appropriate capabilities essential for the efficient exchange of data with the Member States and agencies dealing with justice and home affairs.

What is the purpose of the task force on the exchange of data between Justice and Home Affaires (JHA) agencies and EU bodies?

The new task force on the exchange of data between JHA agencies and bodies, the so-called "hit/no-hit" task force, aims to support the exchange of data between the JHA agencies and bodies, in full accordance with their existing legal bases. It will allow for a smooth cooperation and exchange of information, best practices and lessons learned. The task force will be chaired by the services of the Commission and will gather representatives of the relevant JHA agencies and bodies.

Would citizens, businesses and legal practitioners benefit from the planned initiative for "A trusted and secure European e-ID"?

The Commission has announced the revision of the eIDAS Regulation as well as an EU digital identity scheme for online transactions. The aim is to provide a future-proof legal framework for digital identity and trust services in Europe. Electronic services provided by public services, including the judiciary, often need to establish the identity of users for authentication and authorisation purposes. Therefore, the justice area should also benefit from evolutions with regard electronic identity (e-ID).

Is there any relationship between the Digital Services Act and the Communication on digitalisation of justice in the EU?

The new Digital Services Act package should modernise the current legal framework for digital services. It proposes clear rules regarding the responsibilities of digital services, addressing the risks faced by their users and protecting their users' rights. The Digital Services Act would also propose ex ante rules covering large online platforms acting as gatekeepers, which currently set the rules of the game for their users and competitors.

The Communication on digitalisation of justice in the EU specifically targets the modernisation of justice systems, towards achieving their better effectiveness and improving access to justice for citizens and businesses.

"e-CODEX" Regulation

For which cross-border judicial proceedings could e-CODEX be used?

The e-CODEX Regulation foresees that e-CODEX could be used for electronic transmission of information and documents in cross-border civil and criminal proceedings in accordance with legal acts adopted in the area of civil and criminal judicial cooperation. These instruments are listed in Annex 1 of the Regulation.

What benefits does e-CODEX offer to the digitalisation of judicial cooperation?

e-CODEX shall allow for swift and secure online data exchange. One important feature of e-CODEX is that it is based on a decentralised architecture. This means, there is no central "hub" through which data would transit, as is the case in a centralised system. Thanks to this decentralised architecture, the entities that are using the system for online communication are in full control of their data.

Why do we need an e-CODEX Regulation?

This regulation is needed for two main reasons. The first one is to establish and provide for the long-term sustainability of the e-CODEX system. The second is to entrust the management, the further development and the maintenance of the e-CODEX system to the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) as of July 2023. Any new system entrusted to the Agency, needs to be part of its legal base.

The Regulation establishing the legal basis for the e-CODEX system, makes the use of e-CODEX in any EU judicial cooperation instruments possible. In addition, the Regulation will be directly applicable and binding in its entirety thus guaranteeing a uniform application of the rules across the EU and their entry into force at the same time.

How will the European Commission ensure a seamless transfer of e-CODEX to eu-LISA?

The Commission will set the criteria, monitor and facilitate the handover/takeover process in order to ensure that the entity managing the e-CODEX system successfully completes the transfer. Only if this is the case, will eu-LISA take over responsibility for the e-CODEX system.

What will the role of eu-LISA be after it will have assumed responsibility for the e-CODEX system?

Upon taking up responsibility for the operational management of the e-CODEX system, eu-LISA will provide the personnel and the technical resources necessary to undertake the tasks entrusted to the Agency by the Regulation.

The Agency will need to ensure that the existing software remains functional in a changing technical environment, including its adaption to evolving user needs. Moreover, eu-LISA will have to respond to potential legal or organisational changes, updating the digital templates for the different procedures.

How will the European Commission monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of the e-CODEX system after 2023?

The e-Codex Regulation lays down rules on monitoring and reporting. Every two years, eu-LISA must provide the Commission with reports on the e-CODEX system, using information from the Member States. The Commission must submit a report on the e-CODEX system three years after the takeover and every four years thereafter.

New European judicial training strategy for 2021-2024

What are the key pillars of the New European judicial training strategy 2021* - 2024?

The New European judicial training strategy is based on a four-strand approach:

 (1) training substance addressing broad areas of EU law, providing a flexible response to existing and emerging EU law training needs;

 (2) training audience addressing a broad range of justice professionals enlarging geographical coverage and boosting judicial training for young practitioners;

(3) training methodology using modern and digital training methods to guarantee high-quality and effectiveness;

(4) sharing responsibility for judicial training between Member States, training providers, national and European justice professions' organisations, and the EU.

What are the key qualitative objectives of the strategy?

  • Making sure that European acquis on the rule of law and fundamental rights is not only a standard components of basic judicial training but also part of the continuous trainings that qualified judges and other justice professionals can attend. Embedding "judgecraft", non-legal knowledge and skills in the national continuous training programmes.
  • Making sure that every future or newly appointed judge and prosecutor takes part in a cross-border exchange during the initial training.
  • Organising cross-border training activities every year for at least 5% of all judges and prosecutors; encourage new participants encouraged to attend.
  • Assuring training providers offer interactive, practical and accessible to all learners e-learning that is precisely tailored to training objectives.
  • Encouraging training providers to follow more closely the recommendations in the Advice for training providers and the EJTN Handbook on judicial training methodology in Europe.
  • Keep exploring the potential of modern techniques such as virtual face-to-face training and extended reality solutions.
  • Promoting e-training to address justice professionals' immediate needs in the context of a concrete case.
  • Training instructors to exploit the full potential of e- learning methodologies.
  • Evaluating every training activity on the basis of participants' satisfaction, increased competence and, where relevant, impact on their performance.

What are the key quantitative objectives of the Strategy?

Overall it is necessary that a greater number of justice professionals attend training on EU law and that training providers enhance their training offers, whether national or cross-border, and whether EU (co-)funded or not. The new Strategy foresees a more tailored approach setting new and ambitious objectives for the professions in focus, adapted both to their training needs and their level of attendance at EU law training.

The objective is to train yearly, by 2024, in continuous training on EU law:

  • 65% of judges and prosecutors;
  • 15% of the court and prosecution offices' staff who need EU law competence;
  • 15% of lawyers;
  • 30% of notaries;
  • 20% of bailiffs.

Will the Strategy reach EU partner countries?

European judicial training focuses on EU justice professionals. The Commission also encourages the participation of justice professionals from the Western Balkans region in cross-border judicial training. EU support in the region aims at ensuring coherence and sustainability. Challenges shall be addressing based on a problem-oriented approach and a sound assessment of training needs. Further synergies could be sought with EU-funded judicial training initiatives in other EU partner countries, in particular in Africa and Latin America, thus contributing to strengthening democracy, human rights and the upholding of the rule of law around the world.

How will the Commission monitor the implementation of this strategy?

The Commission will continue to report on progress on EU law training for justice professionals. It will reflect with stakeholders on how to improve data collection and analysis. The Commissions will encourage using, where relevant, a common evaluation form in EU supported activities.

European Training Platform

What will be the added value of the new European Training Platform and who will manage it?

The European Training Platform (ETP) is a freely and easily accessible one-stop-shop for information on judicial training opportunities and training materials until now scattered all over the internet. The ETP will help disseminate the results of EU-(co)funded projects. The Commission contributes to the platform with ready-to-use training materials or handbooks produced notably thanks to EU financial support. On 2 December, a first test phase is launched with the participation of four recognised EU-level judicial training providers: European Judicial Training Network (EJTN), Academy of European Law (ERA), European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) and European University Institute (EUI). Those platforms  inform potential trainees about the training activities they organise all over the EU and in different languages.

Source: European Commission

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