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Procedure : 2018/2009(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0161/2018

Texts tabled :

A8-0161/2018

Debates :

PV 28/05/2018 - 31
CRE 28/05/2018 - 31

Votes :

PV 29/05/2018 - 7.13
CRE 29/05/2018 - 7.13
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2018)0216

Texts adopted
PDF 191kWORD 54k
Tuesday, 29 May 2018 - Strasbourg Final edition
The 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard
P8_TA(2018)0216A8-0161/2018

European Parliament resolution of 29 May 2018 on the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard (2018/2009(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on European Union, in particular Articles 2, 6 and 7 thereof,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in particular Articles 70, 85, 86, 258, 259 and 260 thereof,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to its relevant resolutions in the areas of the rule of law and justice,

–  having regard to the communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Central Bank, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 10 April 2017 entitled ‘The 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard’ (COM(2017)0167),

–  having regard to the 2017 European Commission Joint Research Centre study entitled ‘The judicial system and economic development across EU Member States’(1),

–  having regard to the 2017 US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform Survey entitled ‘The Growth of Collective Redress in the EU’(2),

–  having regard to the Gender Statistics Database of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)(3),

–  having regard to reports by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), in particular its Rule of Law Checklist(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2014 on evaluation of justice in relation to criminal justice and the rule of law(5),

–  having regard to Milieu’s 2011 ‘Comparative study on access to justice in gender equality and anti-discrimination law’(6),

–  having regard to the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on judges: independence, efficiency and responsibilities (CM/Rec(2010)12)(7),

–  having regard to the 2017 European Parliament Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs study entitled ‘Mapping the Representation of Women and Men in Legal Professions Across the EU’(8),

–  having regard to the annual evaluation reports on European judicial systems drawn up by the Council of Europe’s European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ)(9),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0161/2018),

A.  whereas independent, efficient and quality justice systems are key to upholding the rule of law, the fairness of judicial proceedings and the trust of citizens and businesses in the legal system, ensuring that individuals and businesses can fully enjoy their rights; whereas an effective justice system is inseparable from judicial independence, supporting economic growth, defending fundamental rights and underpinning the proper application of EU law; whereas justice is a value in and of itself, in particular as regards citizens’ access to justice and respect for the right to a fair trial;

B.  whereas the Commission has published the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard, an informative, comparative, non-binding tool assessing in principle the effectiveness, independence and quality of national justice systems, in order to pinpoint any shortcomings, identify good practice and progress and better define Member States’ justice policies, focusing for that purpose on the parameters of justice systems that contribute to an improved business, investment and consumer climate in the Union;

C.  whereas the fifth EU Justice Scoreboard analyses in particular issues relating to public access to legal proceedings, the independence of the judiciary as perceived by individuals and the business sector, current use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the justice system and the operation of national justice systems in specific areas relating to the single market and the business sector, while also presenting an initial overview of the functioning of national criminal justice systems in enforcing EU anti-money laundering legislation;

D.  whereas the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard does not present an overall ranking of national justice systems and does not intend to put one system before another;

E.  whereas on the other hand the Justice Scoreboard should be a useful handbook offering an overview of best practices to be used by Member States in the area of civil, commercial and administrative justice;

F.  whereas much data regarding certain Member States is still unavailable; whereas there are discrepancies in the quantity and specific content of data provided by certain Member States;

G.  whereas the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard focuses mainly on civil, commercial and administrative justice, but also presents an initial overview of the functioning of national systems when applying EU anti-money laundering legislation in criminal justice;

H.  whereas this non-binding exercise has the merits of identifying both positive and negative trends and of offering a forum for peer learning and exchange of best practices across the Union to promote and guarantee compliance with the rule of law;

I.  whereas providing information about the justice system in a user-friendly manner is a prerequisite to access to justice;

J.  whereas justice systems must be adapted to meet the new challenges faced by the EU;

General observations

1.  Underlines that justice affirms the rule of law in society and ensures everyone’s right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial court; calls on the Member States to ensure that any justice reform upholds the rule of law and complies with EU standards on judicial independence; encourages the Commission, in this regard, to continue monitoring national justice reforms in the framework of the European Semester, which also draws on information from the EU Justice Scoreboard; calls furthermore on the Commission to develop new criteria for better assessing the conformity of judicial systems with the rule of law, drawing in particular on the Venice Commission’s Rule of Law Checklist;

2.  Calls on the Commission to gather more precise information on the way in which violations of the rule of law and threats to fundamental rights, including corruption, discrimination and breaches of privacy, freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly and association, are being dealt with;

3.  Recalls the request made in its resolution of 25 October 2016 on an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, and reiterates its request to the Commission to submit a proposal for the conclusion of a Union Pact for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights (DRF Pact); calls on the Commission to bundle existing reports, including the Justice Scoreboard, until the DRF Pact is in place;

4.  Takes note of the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard with great interest and calls on the Commission to further promote this exercise in accordance with the Treaties and in consultation with the Member States;

5.  Emphasises that the establishment of a separate Justice Scoreboard in criminal matters will make a fundamental contribution to creating a common understanding of EU legislation in the field of criminal law among judges and prosecutors, thus strengthening mutual trust;

6.  Calls on the Commission to take into account the fight against corruption, and considers the inclusion of this issue in the Justice Scoreboard to be a priority;

7.  Supports the aim of this exchange and stresses that an independent, efficient, high-quality justice system could give businesses incentives to develop and invest at national and cross-border level, while at the same time protecting citizens’ fundamental rights, and enforcing the rights of consumers and workers, thus boosting their economic contribution;

8.  Notes the importance of judicial benchmarking for cross-border mutual trust, for effective cooperation between justice institutions and for the creation of a common judicial area and a European judicial culture; encourages the Commission, therefore, to continue developing concrete indicators to assess, in practice, the upholding of EU values such as the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights;

9.  Believes that such a comparison must be based on objective criteria and evidence that is accurately compiled, compared and analysed while taking individual constitutional and legal frameworks into account; stresses the importance of ensuring equality of treatment between all Member States when impartially assessing their justice systems;

10.  Welcomes the Commission’s efforts to assess, for the first time, certain aspects of criminal justice relating to the fight against money laundering, and recommends that the Commission take the measures necessary to encourage the Member States to provide data on the length of judicial proceedings in this area, in view of the entering into force of the Fourth and, subsequently, the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive;

11.  Welcomes the efforts of the Commission to present measurable data and draw concrete conclusions on how Member States have improved or may yet improve the quality and efficiency of their justice systems, especially as regards the status and appointment of judges, their independence, and gender balance; notes that the data gap has continued to decrease, in particular for indicators relating to the efficiency of justice systems; regrets, however, that there are still instances where, though applicable or available, no data have been provided by some Member States for certain categories; calls, therefore, on Member States to intensify their efforts to make data comparable and to fully collaborate with the Commission by supplying the data requested; stresses that the Member States must continue to reduce the data gap in order to achieve their priorities for efficient justice systems; calls on the Member States to cooperate closely with the CEPEJ and the Commission, especially via the informal group of national experts from ministries and respective justice systems, in order to fill the persisting data gaps under some categories of the Justice Scoreboard;

12.  Calls on the Member States to examine the results of the 2017 Justice Scoreboard closely and to determine what lessons need to be drawn therefrom, and to consider whether national measures need to be adopted to correct any irregularities regarding the quality, efficiency and independence of their national justice systems;

13.  Notes that many Member States have maintained their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their national justice systems through the introduction of reforms; welcomes the fact that a significant number of new reforms have been announced in respect of legal aid, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, court specialisation and judicial maps;

Efficiency

14.  Underlines the importance of efficient and timely proceedings in accordance with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; highlights, furthermore, the importance of quick and efficient proceedings in matters of consumer protection, intellectual property and data privacy rights; notes with concern that such proceedings are still too lengthy in some Member States; points out that a large backlog of pending cases might also make citizens and businesses less willing to trust the judicial system, as well as decrease legal certainty, trust being the cornerstone of respect for the rule of law;

15.  Encourages Member States to invest in the use and continued development of ICT tools in their judicial systems, in an effort to make them more accessible, more comprehensible and easier to use for all EU citizens, especially those with any form of disability and vulnerable groups, including national minorities and/or migrants; emphasises the benefit of ICT systems for cross-border cooperation between the Member States’ judicial authorities and at national level in reducing costs for all stakeholders involved, and also in terms of improving the overall efficiency and quality of justice systems, for example through electronic submission of claims, the possibility of monitoring and conducting proceedings online and electronic communication between courts and lawyers; regrets the fact that the full potential of ICT systems has not yet been reached throughout the whole of the EU; welcomes the transparency in most Member States regarding the publication of court rulings; underlines that availability of online information in a user-friendly manner contributes significantly to the accessibility of justice for citizens and businesses; calls on the Member States to publish all court rulings online as this will help citizens and businesses become better acquainted with the judicial system as well as make it more transparent; notes furthermore that this could facilitate the consistency of case law;

16.  Highlights the need to intensify and diversify the scope of training offered to judges, as this is also a basis for an efficient, independent and impartial judicial system; underlines in particular the need for training in the fields of gender roles, norms and stereotypes, judicial ethics, IT skills, judicial management, mediation, and communication with parties and with the press; underlines furthermore the importance of adequate training in EU law and in the different EU cooperation structures, such as Eurojust; notes that specific areas of EU law, such as copyright and privacy legislation, may require understanding not just of the law but also of technological developments; notes that the specialisation of judges and courts seems to have a positive effect on efficiency as well as on the quality of justice systems; asks the Commission to examine this issue further in next year’s exercise; underlines that continuous and systematic training of judges and other legal experts is needed to ensure coherent and high-quality application and efficient enforcement of law; calls on the Member States to invest more in the development of judicial training and continuous education for legal professionals, such as judges, including in other Member States, with the aim of exchanging experiences and best practices;

17.  Encourages the Member States and the EU institutions to support the further development of mediation at EU level; calls on the Commission to assess systematically the impacts of mediation in the EU judicial systems;

Quality

18.  Calls on the Commission to add collective redress procedures to next year’s comparative exercise on accessibility factors of justice systems, as it believes access to justice and efficient dispute resolution to be of prime importance; considers these procedures a major tool in order to strengthen consumer, environmental and health protection in the EU as a whole, in areas where large numbers of applicants are directly affected; considers that collective redress procedures facilitate citizens’ access to justice and efficient dispute resolution and consequently eliminate unreasonable barriers, notably for citizens living below the poverty threshold or involved in cases with a cross-border dimension;

19.  Notes that most Member States require parties to pay a court fee when initiating legal proceedings; stresses that the availability of legal aid and the level of court fees have a key impact on access to justice, a fundamental right in the EU, in particular for citizens in poverty, and underlines the role of legal aid in guaranteeing that weaker parties can have access to justice on equal terms; highlights that legal aid for consumers below the poverty threshold remains an essential balancing factor; points out that the difficulty in obtaining legal aid could be a major deterrent where the court and/or legal fees represent a significant share of the value of the claim; considers that legal aid should be linked to the poverty threshold in the Member States; maintains that legal costs should, in general, be further lowered, for example by making use of national electronic e-Justice portals; calls on Member States to improve the user-friendliness of online information enabling citizens to determine whether they are eligible for legal aid, including accessible online information for persons who are visually impaired;

20.  Calls on the Commission to introduce, before the close of next year’s exercise, a new indicator on access to justice for any groups which could possibly be underprivileged or discriminated against, in order to identify any possible obstacles;

21.  Stresses the need to address the still existing gender balance disparities and considerable ratio gaps among judges, namely in higher instance courts/supreme courts, at both national and EU level; takes note with regret of the recent negative development in the proportion of female professional judges in some Member States;

22.  Highlights that there is still much to do in terms of gender equality in the judicial professions across Europe, not least as regards access to the office of judge, and in terms of gender stereotypes, transparency in appointments, reconciliation between work and non-work responsibilities or the existence of mentoring practices; emphasises the clear discrepancy between the proportions of female professionals at lower levels of the judiciary (including non-judicial officers) and at the higher court and prosecution levels; urges the Member States to direct efforts, particularly in the field of higher education, towards women in the judicial professions, and to encourage a positive attitude towards female judges;

23.  Recalls the 2015 Joint Statement by the European Parliament and the Council(10) stating that Member States should, to the greatest possible extent and in view of the objective of achieving equality between men and women laid down in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union, ensure an equal presence of women and men when appointing candidates as judges at the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union; urges the Member States to set a good example in this regard;

24.  Underlines that, while over half of the Member States increased expenditure on the judicial system per inhabitant in 2015, the determination of financial resources is still mostly based on historical costs instead of actual workload or number of court requests;

25.  Welcomes the increased use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in most Member States, in particular that of the European online dispute resolution (ODR) platform for consumers and traders;

26.  Takes note of the lack of data availability in the field of matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility; encourages the Commission to include such data in the EU Justice Scoreboard when made available by the Member States, possibly as a mid-term objective to be put in place after completion of the review of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility;

Independence

27.  Underlines that independence, quality and efficiency are key elements for an effective justice system, which is in turn central for the rule of law, the fairness of judicial proceedings and the trust of citizens and businesses in the legal system; emphasises, furthermore, that independence of the judiciary is an integral part of democracy; considers that an independent judicial system relies, on the one hand, on the lack of interference or pressure from government and politics or from parties with vested economic interests and, on the other hand, on effective guarantees provided by the status and position of judges and on their financial situation; stresses that sufficient autonomy must be ensured to shield prosecutorial authorities from undue political influence; calls on the Commission, therefore, to include a section devoted to the status of public prosecutors and their autonomy in the Scoreboard; further invites the Commission to continue assessing legal safeguards for judicial independence, including in cooperation with the networks of the Supreme Courts and the Councils for the Judiciary;

28.  Points out the importance of impartial, i.e. free from arbitrary executive discretion, and comprehensive mechanisms for the appointment, evaluation, transfer or dismissal of judges;

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29.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC104594/jrc104594__2017_the_judicial_system_and_economic_development_across_eu_member_states.pdf
(2) http://www.instituteforlegalreform.com/uploads/sites/1/The_Growth_of_Collective_Redress_in_the_EU_A_Survey_of_Developments_in_10_Member_States_April_2017.pdf
(3) http://eige.europa.eu/gender-statistics/dgs
(4) http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2016)007-e
(5) OJ C 378, 9.11.2017, p. 136.
(6) Milieu Ltd (2011), ‘Comparative study on access to justice in gender equality and anti-discrimination law’, Synthesis report, DG Justice of the European Commission, Brussels.
(7) https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?p=&Ref=CM/Rec(2010)12&Language=lanEnglish&Ver=original&BackColorInternet=C3C3C3&BackColorIntranet=EDB021&BackColorLogged=F5D383&direct=true
(8) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2017/596804/IPOL_STU(2017)596804_EN.pdf.
(9) https://www.coe.int/t/dghl/cooperation/cepej/evaluation/default_en.asp
(10) OJ C 436, 24.12.2015, p. 1.

Last updated: 16 July 2019Legal notice