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The aim of this Communication is to create a forum for discussing EU policies and practice in the field of civil and criminal justice. This is a platform for dialogue among specialists (practitioners, representatives of national justice administrations and academics). This forum is also a permanent mechanism for the European institutions to consult stakeholders, with a view to drawing up European policies and reviewing implementation of the instruments in force.
Communication from the Commission of 4 February 2008 on the creation of a Forum for discussing EU justice policies and practice [COM(2008) 38 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Forum aims to:
- contribute to dialogue between practitioners by providing a permanent platform. The aim is to facilitate exchanges of views, improve mutual understanding, gradually build up a common judicial culture and strengthen mutual trust between the stakeholders in the field of civil and criminal justice;
- collect data and establish best practice. This can be encouraged by means of European funding;
- consult practitioners early, i.e. at the stage of European justice policy design. The Forum will provide views on specific action being planned at European Union (EU) level in this field;
- draw up views on the overall functioning of European judicial cooperation;
- assist the Commission in drawing up its evaluation report on the application of EU measures in domestic legislation. In particular, the Forum provides it with assistance in its task of assessing the transposition of these measures by Member States;
- evaluate European policies. This involves assessing the impact of a measure by ensuring that it has achieved its specific objective and contributed to one of the overall objectives associated with the area of freedom, security and justice. It also aims to identify unforeseen consequences of any such measure;
- contribute to setting up compatible justice statistics. The Forum has the role of participating in the Commission’s work by giving its opinion on the statistical methods and the data gathered;
- take part in the procedure for selecting the winner of the "Crystal Scales of Justice" prize awarded for innovative practice to promote better operation of the system of civil justice. It may also participate in another two-yearly prize which the Commission is considering in respect of criminal justice.
The Forum comprises representatives of:
- the Member States;
- bodies set up by the EU: Eurojust, the European Judicial Network in criminal matters and the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters;
- European organisations of various associations or professions: the Eurojustice conference, which brings together the Prosecutors-General, the European Judicial Training Network, the Network of Presidents of Supreme Courts of the European Union, the Association of the Councils of State, the European Judges and Prosecutors Association and the European Criminal Bar Association;
- non-governmental organisations, such as MEDEL, JUSTICE, Amnesty International and the European Forum for Victim Services;
- academic networks, such as the European Criminal Law Academic Network (ECLAN), the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP) and Eurodefensor.
The Forum consists of an annual plenary session and sub-groups. These sub-groups, which meet as often as necessary, are based on specific themes, such as access to legal aid or respect of fair trial rights.
A representative of the Council of Europe is associated with the Forum. In this respect, the Commission specifies that the Forum works in close partnership with one of the bodies of this organisation, the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ).
In addition, the Commission points out that it is considering setting up an Internet site to:
- broadcast the Forum’s findings, work and studies;
- form a platform for dialogue between the actors in the criminal justice system.
The creation of this Forum is based on two findings by the Commission:
- there is no platform for dialogue between practitioners or channel of communication recognised by the EU institutions for the design of legislation and the evaluation of measures taken by the EU;
- judicial circles are in favour of setting up a Justice Forum.