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European Commission - Press release
Cross-border legal disputes: Commission takes action to ease access to justice
Brussels, 24 November 2011 – The European Commission has today stepped up legal action against six countries for failing to notify national measures to implement EU rules easing access to justice in cross-border legal disputes. The Mediation Directive applies when two parties involved in a cross-border dispute voluntarily agree to settle their dispute using an impartial mediator. The deadline for transposing the Directive into national law was 21 May 2011. The Commission will send reasoned opinions to Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for failing to meet this deadline. Meanwhile, the Commission has closed infringement proceedings against Finland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom after they informed the Commission of their relevant national rules.
Settling disputes and disagreements through courts is often costly and time-consuming. Cross-border cases are particularly complex due to different national laws and practical matters like costs or language. Mediation is an important alternative to going to court in cross-border disputes and can help parties find an amicable settlement. It saves time, money and spares parties involved in already emotional family cases the additional trauma of going to court.
Under the rules of the Directive, Member States have to make sure mediated agreements can be enforced. According to an EU-funded study, the time wasted by not using mediation is estimated at an average of between 331 and 446 extra days in the EU, with extra legal costs ranging from €12,471 to €13,738 per case.
Mediation can solve problems between businesses, employers and employees, landlords and tenants, or families, so that they can maintain and even strengthen their relationship in a constructive way – a result that cannot always be achieved through court proceedings. Settling disputes out of court spares justice systems' resources and can potentially cut legal costs. A crucial element in any mediation is trust in the process, especially when two parties come from different countries. EU rules therefore encourage Member States to provide quality control, establish codes of conduct and offer training to mediators to make sure there is an effective mediation system in place.
All EU Member States should now have measures in place to transpose the EU legislation. In August 2010 the Commission called on all Member States to implement the EU Mediation Directive on time (see IP/10/1060 ). It then began legal proceedings by sending “letters of formal notice” to nine countries (Czech Republic, Spain, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Finland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom) in July 2011 ( IP/11/919 ). Three of them (Finland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom) notified the Commission of their national measures while the other six (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) will now receive a reasoned opinion for failing to do so. 20 Member States have the rules in place now, while Denmark is not bound by the Directive – a prerogative it has under a protocol annexed to the EU Treaties.
For more information
European Commission – civil justice:
Homepage of EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding: