Brussels, 30 May 2008
The Commission has adopted today a Communication to the European Parliament, Council and the EESC presenting ideas for the use of Information Society tools in the field of justice. The Communication deals with current and future initiatives which will help promote the European Justice Area.
"European citizens and businesses advocate better justice systems across Europe, which are capable of delivering better results in a more efficient way. The Commission believes that e-Justice can provide effective tools to make justice easier to access, speedier and less costly", declared Vice-president Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice Freedom and Security. "Judges, prosecutors and legal practitioners are also more and more vocal in demanding more effective judicial co-operation within the EU. This is also essential in order to provide adequate responses to cross-border crime. e-Justice can contribute to this aim too", he added.
For several years, initiatives in the field of e-Justice have been initiated at national level or thanks to the co-operation between some governments. With this Communication, the Commission draws up an inventory of the existing projects and proposes coordinated action at EU level for the future, to avoid risks of diverging technical solutions.
The objectives of e-Justice, which encompass both criminal and civil justice, are broadly the following:
1. The creation of a European portal designed to facilitate access to justice by citizens and businesses across Europe. It will include relevant and updated information on the rights of defendants and victims in criminal proceedings and on the remedies available before the courts of another Member State in the event of cross-border disputes. To make it possible to exercise those rights in practice, the portal will also provide guidance to find the competent court or tribunal in the relevant country. Furthermore, the portal may allow access to certain on-line procedures, already foreseen in existing EU regulations, such as debt recovery action for small claims.
2. The reinforcement of judicial co-operation, on the basis of existing legal instruments. An area of major concern to the Commission will be the interconnection of Criminal Record Databases. This ongoing project allows judges and enforcement agencies across the EU to take account of defendants' past criminal convictions. The Commission also considers other actions, concerning exchanges of information between legal practitioners (for which a specially secured network will have to be devised), enhanced recourse to videoconference (so far, little used in cross-border proceedings) and innovative translation tools, such as automatic translation, dynamic forms and a European databases of legal translators and interpreters.
The e-Justice strategy, largely underpinned by the 2006-2010 e-Commission strategy, will represent a major challenge for the Commission in the coming years. Important human and financial resources will be mobilised in this exercise.