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European Commission

Press Release

Brussels, 7 October 2013

Completing the European area of Justice: Tell us what comes next

A look into the crystal ball: What will EU justice policy look like in 2020? This is the theme of a Europe-wide debate the European Commission has launched today. The starting point for the discussion is a package of five discussion papers presented by the Commission covering European civil, criminal and administrative law, as well as the rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU. These papers launch a debate on possible actions in EU justice policy in the years to come aimed at strengthening the foundations on which the European Union is built and completing the European area of justice in the interest of Europe's citizens and businesses. Among the ideas tabled are further steps to boost mutual trust in civil justice, reinforced procedural rights concerning the service of documents, as well as further use of optional European substantive law regimes and a new mechanism to facilitate the resolution of any future rule of law crisis in Member States.

Everyone interested can participate in the debate and help shape future justice policies. The Commission has launched a call for input which will be open until the end of 2013 with the possibility to send preliminary input by 11 November. The Commission's papers and the preliminary input will then be discussed at a European forum on the Future of EU Justice Policy on 21 – 22 November in Brussels (see programme in the Annex). Distinguished speakers include national ministers, members of the European Parliament, judges from the European Court of Justice and from national Supreme Courts, academics and leading representatives of the legal profession. The event is also open for journalists, who can register by sending an email to

“We have come a long way in developing a European area of Justice, in just a short space of time. Indeed, justice policy has emerged into the limelight as a field of high activity at European level - comparable to the internal market in the 1990s. But there is more work to be done," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "We have to construct a European area of Justice which is complete and solid. Citizens and businesses will only reap the full rewards of our internal market if they are confident that their rights are protected everywhere. This is about mutual trust in each other's justice systems. We need to keep building that trust."

The input gathered will help the Commission set out the EU's justice policy after the Stockholm Programme. As announced by President Barroso in his letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz of 11 September 2013, the European Commission will present a Communication on future initiatives in the field of justice and home affairs policies in spring 2014 which will be discussed at the European Council in June 2014; the input will therefore contribute to the justice part of that Communication.

The five papers issued by the Commission today set out its ideas for the following areas:

  1. Civil Law:

The EU has been building bridges between national civil law systems, ensuring that judgements from one court are automatically recognised in another Member State, protecting businesses in cross-border insolvency cases, and helping to determine who has jurisdiction in cross border divorces, successions and marriages. The Commission's paper highlights further areas where action may be needed to allow citizens, consumers and businesses to fully benefit from the European area of justice, when they move with their family to another Member State or wish to fully exploit the Single Market. Actions envisaged include enhanced rules for the service of documents, improving the enforcement of judgments, and growth-enhancing measures to tackle discrepancies between national insolvency laws or to keep pace with market and technological developments such as contractual issues related to cloud computing.

  1. Criminal Law:

Citizens expect their lives, fundamental rights and safety to be protected across the EU. With the Lisbon Treaty in force, the Union has been able to take new steps in the field of criminal law, such as harmonising definitions of serious crimes, introducing common standards to protect persons suspected or accused of a crime and guaranteeing EU-wide standards to protect victims of crimes, as well as proposing a new Union-level prosecution system to protect the EU budget from fraud. The Commission's paper explores how the novelties of the Lisbon Treaty can be further used, for instance by consolidating and standardising certain tools such as freezing and confiscation orders.

  1. Administrative Law:

The EU relies to a significant extent on national administrations to effectively administer EU law and thereby to ensure its proper implementation. This makes it important for citizens and businesses that this part of the EU architecture also works well. The Commission's paper explores further possibilities such as strengthening administrative procedural rights and enhancing co-operation between administrative authorities.

  1. The Rule of Law:

Experience has shown that it would be helpful to strengthen the EU's capacity to handle rule of law crises. This would usefully entail a dedicated rule of law mechanism for the EU (see SPEECH/13/677). The Commission's paper seeks to encourage feedback as to how such a mechanism could be designed.

  1. Fundamental Rights:

The EU has already come a long way in developing a fundamental rights culture: The EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights is the Union's compass, guiding every proposal. The paper contains ideas on how to reinforce compliance with the Charter both in the activities of the Union institutions and those of the Member States when they implement EU law.


EU Justice Policy has undergone profound change in the past few years. It was only in 2010, with the start of the mandate of the current European Commission, that a justice portfolio was created. Since then, the Commission has brought forward more than 50 initiatives in this area, laying the building blocks of a true European area of Freedom, Justice and Security at the service of Europe's citizens – one of the EU's key objectives as stated in the Treaty of Lisbon.

Major steps have been taken in just a few years: New EU rights for victims of crime (IP/12/1200) and easier recognition of judgements (IP/12/1321) have improved access to justice, while Commission proposals on personal data protection are set to bolster fundamental rights and the digital single market (MEMO/13/39). Moreover, initiatives like the EU Justice Scoreboard (IP/13/285) have highlighted how effective justice systems and policies are crucial for economic growth.

Now, the aim is to take stock of the progress made and identify the key challenges ahead. To this end, the Commission is organising the 'Assises de la Justice' forum on 21-22 November. This is a two-day conference that will bring together judges, lawyers, scholars, policy makers and business representatives from across Europe.

With the objective of engaging a wide debate on the role of justice in the European Union, the Commission is calling for ideas from all interested parties on how to meet the expectations of citizens and businesses and achieve a true European area of justice. Send your preliminary contributions to by 11 November and join the debate on social media using the hashtag #EUJustice.

For more information

The five issues papers:

European Commission – Assises de la justice

Join the debate on Twitter: #EUJustice

Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Justice:

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter:@VivianeRedingEU

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)


Assises de la Justice: Annotated provisional agenda

Thursday 21 and Friday 22 November 2013 in Brussels (Belgium), European Commission, Charlemagne building.


09:30 – 10:00 OPENING

Ms V. Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner


Mr J. Bernatonis (LT), Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania

Mr R. Badinter (FR), Lawyer, former Minister of Justice and former President of the Constitutional Council of the French Republic

Mr J. Rozenberg (UK), Commentator in legal matters and journalist


Moderator: Ms F. Le Bail, Director-General for Justice, European Commission

Ms P. Teixeira da Cruz (PT), Minister of Justice of the Portuguese Republic

Mr K. Lenaerts (BE), Vice-President of the Court of Justice of the European Union

Mr P. Justice Gilligan (IE), President of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary


Moderator: Ms F. Le Bail, Director-General for Justice, European Commission

Mr V. Skouris (EL), President of the Court of Justice of the European Union

Ms P. Koskelo (FI), President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Finland, Vice-President of the NPSJC

Mr M. Barendrecht (NL), Professor of Law, Tilburg University, Director of Hiil

Mr E. Tsouroulis (EL), President of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe

Mr R. Müller (DE), Journalist


Moderator: Ms F. Le Bail, Director-General for Justice, European Commission

Mr A. Shatter (IE), Minister of Justice, Equality and Defence of Ireland

Mr R. Tavares (PT), Member of the European Parliament, Vice-Chair CRIM

Mr J.M. Sauvé (FR), Vice-President of the Conseil d'État of the French Republic, President of ACA

Mr G. Buquicchio (IT), President of the Venice Commission, Council of Europe



Moderator: Ms F. Le Bail, Director-General for Justice, European Commission

9:00 – 10:20. Criminal law

Mr J.F. López Aguilar (ES), Member of the European Parliament, Chair LIBE

Mr K. Tolksdorf (DE), President of the Bundesgerichtshof of the Federal Republic of Germany, Vice-President of the NPSJC

Mr J.C. Marin (FR), General Prosecutor, Cour de cassation of the French Republic

Ms M. McGowan QC (UK), Barrister, Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales

10:20 – 11:40 Civil and commercial law

Mr K. Lehne (DE), Member of the European Parliament, Chair JURI

Lord Justice Mance (UK), Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Mr M. Szpunar (PL), former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, lawyer

11:40 – 13:00 Administrative law

Mr L. Berlinguer (IT), Member of the European Parliament

Mr Z. Kühn (CZ), Judge at the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic

Mr S. Cassese (IT), Judge at the Constitutional Court of the Italian Republic

13:00 – 13:30 CONCLUSIONS

Ms V. Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

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