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European Commission

Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

Legal training: an essential tool for European Judicial excellence

Workshop on the training of legal practitioners – Teaching EU law and judgecraft/Brussels

28 November 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here.

The impact of European law on the daily lives of European citizens, consumers, workers, businesses and on national political and legal structures is profound. And European law is not static but results from a dynamic and open process of law-making and legal interpretation. This includes the daily role of legal practitioners across the European Union, from lawyers and bailiffs on the one hand to judges and prosecutors on the other. All these actors are increasingly interacting with European law. This means that every national lawyer and every national judge must also be a European law expert, capable of interpreting and effectively enforcing EU law alongside his own domestic law. And on the Union's decentralised legal system, national judges must become true "Union law judges" to be able to comply with their responsibilities.

There is a general principle of law expressed in the Latin legal maxim "Iura novit curia" – "the court knows the law". Yes, a court has to know the law. But how sure are we that national courts across the European Union are aware of all the key features of the diverse national systems of our Union, built upon sometimes centennial layers of history and traditions?

Our success in facing up to the challenges and opportunities brought about by the establishment of a European area of Justice can only be achieved by assuring the coherence and consistency of the way in which the EU legal order interacts with the diverse national legal traditions and systems. And this requires, first of all, well informed and well trained legal practitioners.

The training of legal practitioners in European Union law is therefore essential for three main reasons:

First, legal and judicial training ensures mutual trust among those whose job it is to apply European Union law.

Second, legal and judicial training makes it easier to co-operate cross-border.

And third, legal and judicial training provides for greater legal security and certainty across the European Union, for both citizens and businesses.

In 2011 the Commission presented a set of ambitious actions that are now being implemented1. The objective is to enable half of all the European legal practitioners to participate in training on EU law by 2020.

Two years after the adoption of this set of ambitious actions on judicial training we are well on track. Let me give you some concrete examples:

First, the European Judicial Training Network – which is the most important European player in these fields and the main training provider for judges and prosecutors at EU level – has greatly expanded its activities. Between 2010 and 2012, the numbers of judges and prosecutors participating in training activities at EU level was multiplied by almost three times. If we look at the national training activities, participant numbers go up even more: from 2.400 to more than 4.000 judges and prosecutors in 2012. This is impressive work and quite a change since this Parliament and this Commission came into office in 2010.

Second, we also see good progress in the work of the other actors in the field. The European Commission reports annually about judicial training. We have first reported in 2011, and we are publishing today the second report covering the period of 20122. You will be able to read the findings yourself. The results show that the Commission's ambitious target to train 700.000 European legal practitioners by 2020 is within reach.

More than 64.000 legal practitioners were trained in EU law or the national law of another Member State last year. And EU support was given to the training of more than 12.000 participants in 2012 alone.

While it is important that a sufficient number of legal practitioners benefit from training, it is equally necessary to ensure the quality of training activities.

Today's conference is an excellent occasion to take stock and exchange views on how best to further promote good training practices.

The Pilot Project on European judicial training proposed by the European Parliament 2012 will greatly help to identify and disseminate best practices. I am particularly grateful to the Members of the European Parliament Mr Luigi Berlinguer and Ms Erminia Mazzoni for their initiative.

We are now putting the pilot project in action. We have issued a call for proposals and we are now working to identify best practices in view of concrete recommendations. Those recommendations should target the different training needs and take into account the different stages of development of training in EU law of judges and prosecutors, lawyers and court staff.

As you can see from the Commission report distributed today a great deal of progress has been achieved.

We should keep this momentum for the next years. But more can and needs to be done.

A concrete idea for further work could be the development of the European Judicial Training Network into a proper 'bricks and mortar' European Judicial Training Institute.

The aim would be to strengthen the European dimension of the training of judges, prosecutors and judicial staff that use European instruments frequently. The recent adoption of a substantial body of EU legislation in the field of Justice means that it must now be implemented by the practitioners of justice across the European Union. This makes judicial training a central element of our action to support, promote and instill excellence and trust in EU-wide justice systems. This is essential to ensure that justice systems are trusted by the public to resolve disputes with fairness, efficiency, and independence. I look forward to continuing working together, to help training as many European legal professionals as possible. And I count on you to continue developing new ideas to strengthen the EU dimension. Thank you for your attention and I wish you a very productive meeting.

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