Judicial training in the European Union
Judicial training is a vital issue for the establishment of the European judicial area. Included in the Hague programme, common judicial training has to focus on knowledge of the legal instruments of the Union and the judicial systems of the Member States and on improving language training for better communication.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 29 June 2006 on judicial training in the European Union [COM(2006) 356 final - Not yet published in the Official Journal].
Given the European Union's objective of establishing an area of freedom, security and justice, it is crucial for justice professionals in each Member State to acquire a European legal culture. To this end, Member States will have to become familiar with one another's systems, learn one another's languages and become accustomed to working in the context of mutual recognition and cross-border partnership, so as to foster cooperation between judicial authorities.
Diversity of judicial training systems in the Member States
Judicial training systems are closely linked to judicial organisation in the Member States and vary in the machinery through which judges, prosecutors and lawyers are recruited:
- The initial training of the judges, and sometimes the prosecutors, varies in its level of detail according to whether they are recruited straight from university or after several years of professional experience. Continuing training varies from country to country.
- Differences between training structures: Some Member States have a single institution for training judges and prosecutors, others have separate institutions. Lawyers' training is often organised directly by the Bar, sometimes in conjunction with the universities.
- The duration of training for the various judicial professions and the type of financing according to the branch chosen also vary between Member States.
The process may also cover other types of specialised courts (administrative, military).
While the EU has no desire to interfere in the organisation of national training systems, strengthening the European judicial area means that all practitioners must be able to receive training of the same quality. European financing can, in any case, only supplement national financing.
The European aspects of judicial training
The EU has been working for more than fifteen years on the creation of a European Judicial Training Network (EJTN) as essential to the development of a European judicial culture. Through initiatives like Grotius and the creation of a framework programme on fundamental rights and justice (2007-2013), it seeks to strengthen judicial training in the European space and better target the means allocated for it.
In addition to these financial tools, the mechanisms set up to help cooperation - such as the Judicial Network in Civil Matters, Eurojust and the Judicial Network in Criminal Matters - play an important role in the dissemination of information.
There are also many European institutions that regularly organise training for practitioners of justice, e.g. the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) in Maastricht, the European Centre for Judges and Lawyers and the European Law Academy (ERA) in Trier.
The object of the EJTN, which was set up in 2000, is to promote a judicial training programme with a genuinely European dimension. This valuable tool for developing judicial training and coordinating the activities of the various national structures in the field of European Union law received operating grants from the Union in 2003 and 2005. As from 2007, the Commission proposes that it be allocated an annual operating grant under the framework programme on fundamental rights and justice specific programme on criminal justice).
Needs and objectives of European judicial training
The organisation of judicial training is primarily the responsibility of the Member States, and it is up to them to incorporate the European dimension fully into their national activities. The Communication makes it clear that, while developing and implementing training activities is primarily a matter for the Member States given the specificities of the different legal cultures, there is plenty for the EU to do in this field. The Commission identifies two key areas for action:
- the proper application of Community law, which depends largely on how it is applied by the legal practitioners, and especially by judges;
- the development of the mutual recognition principle, which rests primarily on mutual confidence and cooperation between judicial authorities.
The Commission also lists certain specific judicial training needs:
- improving familiarity with Union and Community legal instruments, in particular in areas where specific powers are entrusted to the national judges;
- improving language skills so that judicial authorities can communicate with each other directly, as provided for in most instruments;
- developing familiarity with the legal and judicial systems of the Member States so that their respective needs can be assessed in the context of judicial cooperation.
In terms of method, training must stress the practical aspects so that:
- alongside the traditional lectures and seminars, methods allowing broader dissemination of the results of training can be developed;
- easily accessible, innovative on-line training tools can be developed and used, especially with regard to Union instruments and information on national legal and judicial systems;
- close cooperation can be facilitated between national training bodies, European training bodies and the EJTN, on the one hand, and Eurojust and the Judicial Networks in Civil and Criminal Matters, on the other. Closer cooperation that respects national traditions will facilitate comparison and exchanges of views and experience.
European strategy for judicial training
The Hague Programme stresses the importance of incorporating a European component in national training programmes, especially in the area of initial training, so as to give future professionals a sense of belonging to the same area of law and values. Continuing training, on the other hand, must enable already experienced professionals to feel at home with the legal instruments adopted in the European Union.
The Commission wishes first to give financial support to the training of legal professions in Union and Community law under the 2007-2013 framework programme on fundamental rights and justice. In addition, in order to ensure that funding is targeted on essential needs, the main actors in judicial training in the Member States will be consulted regularly in order to devise a European strategy of multiannual training.
The EJTN must be strengthened so as to improve coordination between national entities and to develop strong and stable relations between them, with the establishment of an annual operating grant subject to the conditions laid down in the Financial Regulation. It should also be able to become involved in devising fully European training schemes in conjunction with other relevant bodies. It comprises the institutions competent for training judges and prosecutors, although in some member countries the latter are not classed as judicial officers. In 2006 the Commission adopted a financing decision in order to implement an exchange programme for legal authorities. With this instrument, it laid down that the EJTN must have sole responsibility for exchanges between judges and prosecutors across Europe. The question of the participation of specialised judges must be considered, as must training for lawyers.
Financially speaking, there will have to be a degree of simplification to target European financing on projects that make it possible to reach out to audiences of particular importance; general partnership agreements could be put in place to stabilise relations with qualified institutions; and the Commission could make use of one-off calls for tender for certain larger-scale projects.
Lastly, judicial training should become integrated into a broader international context so as to facilitate judicial cooperation with third countries and strengthen the rule of law in the world.
In December 2001 the Laeken European Council called for a European network to encourage the training of magistrates to be set up swiftly, as a means of helping to develop trust between those involved in judicial cooperation. Similarly, the Hague programme adopted in November 2004 stresses the need to strengthen mutual confidence by improving mutual understanding among judicial authorities and different legal systems. These decisions are aimed at building up a true European legal culture.
For further information, consult the following page of the website of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security.