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Brussels, 25 October 2010

European Civil Justice Day: Three out of four Europeans want better access to justice abroad

Three out of four Europeans (73%) want action to help them resolve legal disputes and assert their rights in other EU Member States, according to a new Eurobarometer survey released today. The report coincides with European Civil Justice Day, which aims to raise awareness of people's rights to access civil justice when they work, get married, have children or buy goods and services elsewhere in the EU.

"Thanks to free movement rights, more and more Europeans live, travel and work in other EU countries than ever before," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "While Europeans benefit greatly from free-movement rights, they still face barriers because of different legal systems across the EU. We need to ensure that these differences do not prevent citizens from enjoying the same access to civil justice in other Member States as they do in their own country."

The survey released today shows that 56% of Europeans believe it is difficult to access civil justice in another EU country while only 14% consider it to be easy. 73% support additional measures to facilitate access to justice in other Member States and 52% believe such measures should be taken through common rules at EU level.

While only 2% of those questioned have personally been involved in legal proceedings with a person or company from another Member States, a further 9% think they could be in the future.

In terms of cross-border family law, 68% of Europeans feel the EU should have a role in how national rules are applied in cases of international divorce and in financial matters for married couples from different EU countries. In July, EU governments gave 14 EU countries the green light to push forward with rules allowing international couples to select which country's law would apply to their divorce (IP/10/917). The new rules, which still must be approved, will allow couples to avoid emotionally and financially costly proceedings.

Finally, the majority (58%) of those questioned support additional EU measures to improve recognition of documents between Member States.

To make it easier for citizens to find information on solving legal problems abroad, the Commission launched the e-justice portal this summer (IP/10/956). This electronic one-stop-shop for access to justice throughout the EU offers quick answers to citizens’ legal questions with over 12,000 pages of content. So far it has been visited 125,000 times.

Crystal Scales of Justice Prize

Meanwhile, the European Commission together with the Council of Europe will today announce the 2010 winners of the Crystal Scales of Justice prize, which awards innovative practices in civil and criminal justice. The scheme, now in its fifth year, aims to identify and promote innovative practices in civil and criminal matters, in respect of conduct of proceedings, court organisation and general functioning of the justice system. This year, 50 projects participated in the competition. The winners will be announced at an event marking Civil Justice Day in Ljubljana, Slovenia (


Improving access to justice is one of the objectives of the European Commission's Action Plan to deliver an area of freedom, security and justice in the EU (see IP/10/447). This followed the adoption of the Stockholm Programme for EU justice and security policies over 2010-2014 by EU leaders in December 2009.

Further information

Special Eurobarometer 351: Civil justice

e-Justice portal

Delivering an area of freedom, security and justice for Europe's citizens: Action Plan implementing the Stockholm Programme

European Day of Civil Justice

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