On the 30th of May 2008 the Commission launches the Justice Forum. The objective of the Forum is to promote a dialogue between the Commission and stakeholders in the justice systems of the Member States. Representatives of all professions involved in the justice systems (judges, lawyers, prosecutors, academics, legal translators and interpreters), and delegates from NGOs, the Council of Europe, the Fundamental Rights Agency and others have been invited to take part in the Justice Forum’s meetings. The Justice Forum will cover both civil and criminal justice issues, and this is reflected in its membership.
The Justice Forum will discuss existing EU legislation and possible future legislation. The Commission hopes to get feedback on EU legal instruments already adopted and in force to assess “user satisfaction”, to ascertain which measures are perceived as useful by practitioners and whether any gaps remain in EU legislation. More generally, the Commission is interested in assessing to what extent the objective of creating an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice is being met.
Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, said: “With the Justice Forum the Commission will benefit from greater awareness of its aims and objectives on the part of practitioners and other experts. By using the channel of communication opened up by the Justice Forum it will have direct access to key experts and get its message across, and contribute to establishing the optimal conditions for the operation of mutual recognition”.
The objectives of e-Justice
The objectives of e-Justice, which encompass both criminal and civil justice, are broadly the following:
- 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.
- 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.