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European e-Justice Strategy
By using information and communication technologies (ICT) in the administrative procedures of judicial systems, e-Justice provides a distinct advantage in terms of improving these systems’ effectiveness, legal authorities’ cooperation and, most importantly, citizens’ access to justice. This Communication proposes a strategy for e-Justice that aims to improve the administration of justice for the benefit of citizens through concerted efforts at both the national and European levels.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 30 May 2008 – Towards a European e-Justice Strategy [COM(2008) 329 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication presents a strategy for e-Justice, which is to improve judicial cooperation on both the national and European levels. e-Justice refers to the judicial systems’ application of information and communication technologies (ICT) in their administrative procedures. It enhances these systems’ functional and financial effectiveness, the collaboration between legal authorities, as well as citizens’ access to justice. With this strategy, the Commission aims to encourage the operational priority projects, the decentralisation of the ICT architectures and the implementation of the existing legal instruments.
Several projects that improve the diffusion of information have already been established at national and European levels. To strengthen the exchange of best practices resulting from these projects, the Commission intends to create an e-Justice sub-group within the Justice Forum, which will enhance cooperation among national judicial systems as well as among legal professionals.
In order to also promote European Union (EU) judicial action, with a view to making it more understandable, accessible and efficient, the Commission intends to support Member States in developing appropriate tools. In addition, the Commission intends to develop electronic tools that aim to improve access to justice and collaboration among the relevant stakeholders, as well as to attain a higher level of system interoperability and economies of scale.
The EU’s priorities for action consist of providing citizens with easier access to judicial information and of boosting judicial cooperation. With regard to the first, the Commission will create an e-Justice portal, which will have a minimum of three functions:
- giving access to information concerning judicial systems and procedures, as well as to practical information concerning the competent authorities and methods of obtaining legal aid;
- referring users to the Internet sites of European legal institutions, networks and registers;
- providing a direct access to selected European procedures; in the long-term the judicial procedures could be fully electronic.
5. For judicial cooperation, the Commission will develop electronic tools on the basis of the existing legal networks and Eurojust. Information and training on these tools will be developed in collaboration with the competent national and European training establishments, such as the European judicial training network. More specifically, to improve judicial cooperation, the Commission intends to:
- continue the work on interconnecting the criminal records of Member States;
- develop the existing instruments to create a secure network for judicial authorities to share and exchange information of confidential nature;
- promote the use of videoconferencing in cross-border civil or criminal judicial proceedings by endorsing efforts made at national level, while coordinating at European level to ensure interoperability;
- providing aid with regard to translation by developing automated translation tools, establishing a database of qualified legal translators and interpreters and creating standardised online forms for automatic translation.
A draft action plan that provides a timetable for the Commission’s priority actions is annexed to this Communication. The development of the e-Justice related projects will be covered by the Civil Justice and Criminal Justice financial programmes. The Commission will be responsible for coordinating the actions and for promoting the exchange of best practices among Member States.