President. – The next item is the oral question (B7-0106/2012) by Klaus-Heiner Lehne, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs, and Juan Fernando López Aguilar, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (O-000059/2012)
Tadeusz Zwiefka, deputising for the author. − (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, working in the Committee on Legal Affairs it is of course quite normal that every day I come across many legislative drafts, particularly in the areas of international civil law, commercial law and inheritance law, which we were discussing just a minute ago. I am also absolutely aware that as soon as these bills become law, they will require the judiciary – principally judges – to know about Union regulations as well as about the legal systems of other Member States.
For a long time now the MEPs working in the Committee on Legal Affairs, encouraged primarily by our colleague Luigi Berlinguer, have laid considerable emphasis on every type of training that might provide additional knowledge to the judiciary in European Union Member States, as it is they who, in practice, put Union regulations into practice. They will of course have direct experience of these situations with ever increasing frequency as there will be more and more of these regulations.
With new and constantly changing regulations and with the involvement of judges and other legal workers, the application of Union law will be natural and uncontested. Training is required for all employees throughout the judiciary. It cannot simply hide these problems that we are facing today and which we need to overcome. It is absolutely essential. I would even say: compulsory. In a question addressed to the European Commission, which was prepared by the chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs, Mr Lehne, as well as by the chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affiars, Mr López Aguilar, we would like to express our concern regarding the implementation of the ambitious plan for at least half of employees in the legal sector in the European Union to participate in different types of training by 2020. We ask how existing training structures and platforms for the exchange of experiences between judges or prosecutors can be strengthened and to what extent the European Parliament will be included in work on these important issues.
Right from the beginning of the Stockholm programme we have been talking about the need to create a European legal culture. All Union institutions, that is, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission, have declared their support and appear to be completely clear about the importance of such training. In the work that has commenced on the ‘Justice’ programme for 2014-2020, the issue of training for employees in the judiciary has been considered to be among the most important. However, in order to be able to communicate effectively, there must – literally – be a common language and, for this reason, another issue that is important is to improve university level legal studies programmes.
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, author. – (ES) Mr President, as Mr Zwiefka just explained on behalf of Klaus-Heiner Lehne, the co-author of this question, the aim is to give rise to a debate and a motion for a resolution highlighting the importance of judicial training, the training of lawyers, in particular judges and prosecutors, who are the first applicators of European law. The EU is a legal construct. This is precisely what explains its history of success, in particular since the launch, through the Treaty on European Union, of an area of justice and home affairs and, through the Treaties of Amsterdam, Nice and, of course, Lisbon, of an area of freedom, justice and security that has seen what I would go as far as to say are formidable developments over the last 10 years, in the mutual recognition of legal resolutions requiring a space for European justice in which judges and prosecutors can deliver their utmost, to the best of their ability. In order to achieve this it is essential to have adequate training in the different legal cultures, in the different traditions and in the laws of the Member States and, if possible also, in the use of the different community languages.
Accordingly, importance must be placed on judicial training but also on making use within the European Judicial Training Network of centres providing judicial training, of institutions accredited in their collaboration with the European institutions, in particular, the Commission, precisely in order to roll out those judicial training programmes in which Parliament is showing interest.
That is why this question is being posed, with a view to finding out, first, what the Commission is planning on doing and how it plans to achieve the aim that by 2020 at least half of the judicial staff in the EU and the Public Prosecutor’s office should have participated in some sort of training course and course on European legal culture.
Secondly, how can we strengthen our collaboration with centres providing judicial training, with the institutions that devote themselves to legal training.
Thirdly, how does the Commission propose to take advantage of the willingness of the European Parliament to adopt a proactive position in relation to driving forward the justice programme, which is at the heart of development of the Stockholm Programme and, in particular, the pilot project specifically geared towards the training of judges and magistrates, remembering always the important role performed for these purposes by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is a great catalyst for European legal culture, in cooperation with the European Court of Human Rights.
IN THE CHAIR: LÁSZLÓ SURJÁN Vice-President
Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the Commission. − Mr President, let me say how much I appreciate the fact that Parliament and the Commission share the same vision on this subject. Thanks to the collaboration between the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, we have now on the table a very ambitious resolution with regard to the communication the Commission adopted on European judicial training in September 2011.
What the Commission would like to do, and you share this view, is to build trust in EU-wide justice to create a genuine European judicial area. To build this trust, it is very important that judicial training is reinforced.
We have set as an objective that 700 000 legal practitioners – which equates to half of the legal practitioners in the European Union – should have participated in training on European law by 2020. To achieve this ambitious but also, we believe, realistic goal all available resources at local, national and European levels will need to be mobilised and used.
And of course, all stakeholders have to commit themselves to integrating Union law and its implementation into national and local training activities. They must commit themselves to increasing the number of judicial training activities on European law and the number of participants.
Member States’ councils of the judiciary and legal professions must organise matters in the most optimal way, so that human resources are available and training time factored when organising each national judicial system.
The Commission will, of course, work with the strength of existing stakeholders: the European Judicial Training Network, the Academy of European Law, the European Institute for Public Administration. It will also cooperate as closely as possible with the different European professional legal organisations.
Furthermore, we aim to initiate a two-week exchange programme for new judges and prosecutors as from 2014 onwards and we undertake also to facilitate funding available for European judicial training to support high quality projects, as you may have read in the proposals for the future financial programmes.
As regards follow up of the proposed pilot project, the Commission has initiated the steps necessary to adopt a Commission decision in early spring.
Salvatore Iacolino, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we have listened carefully to the indications from the Commission about reinforcing judicial training. There is no doubt that this is a top priority, because we believe that the judicial training of magistrates and judicial practitioners serves not only to bring the various legal systems closer together – though they must remain distinct due to the typical characteristics of each – but certainly this mutual tangible cooperation can certainly facilitate what, today more than ever, is the transnational dimension of the law: lawyers, judicial practitioners, who must be supported by a common and consistent judicial training sector, possibly through exchanges via Erasmus, so as to set out an area of freedom, justice and security in which each component can make its own voice heard in a common European market in which competitiveness and sustainability are closely linked to a system of free movement of professions, in which it is important to have high quality assurance standards.
For this reason, it is important to have a European professional card, a sort of European accreditation, in a context in which trust – as set out in the Stockholm Programme between the various Member States – should be based on a tangible mutual recognition of judicial orders, so that entry of young judicial practitioners onto the labour market can be facilitated and so that those who have the ability to use more than one language can be taken into account. There is still a role for the most important agencies in a context in which the financial perspectives of the 2014-2020 budget will have to be characterised not only by important and significant pilot projects, such as the one that has just been mentioned, but by appropriate and adequate resources so as to expand the number of people benefiting from this programme. Thank you.
Luigi Berlinguer, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Union has produced a massive amount of laws and standards to establish European legislation, and has created the European area known as the Stockholm Programme. There is an imbalance between this monumental amount of legislation and the use which citizens make of it, which is numerically, in percentage terms, very limited.
On the other hand, national judges, lawyers working within individual States have grown up with the legislation of their own country and are mainly trained in this sense, whereas we believe that the true European judges are national judges capable of changing their mentality and imbuing themselves with a knowledge of European law. Therefore, before talking about training we need to discuss a great communication campaign aimed at citizens and legal practitioners, so that they can be the vehicles for this great innovation andso that they can increase capacity to profit from the benefits provided by this legislation.
Primarily, though, it is a grassroots movement that must be created, through in-service training – we cannot provide judicial training of professionally highly qualified adults as if it were a lesson for schoolchildren. We must stimulate curiosity in dealing with their cases, encouraging them to connect with other colleagues and to come up with solutions, given that today common law and civil law are converging, and are not as far apart as they once were within our judicial culture. This is the real point.
In our proposals, and I am happy that the European Commission is now convinced of this, we are calling for a reversal of the trend: bottom-up, more legal status than judicial training. There in a very interesting example in the Netherlands, called Eurinfra: it is a network of leaders in every court who spread this knowledge and push magistrates on this issue. This is the substance of our project, and we hope to have the full support of the Commission.
Cecilia Wikström, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (SV) Mr President, within the European institutions we have gradually built up an understanding of each other’s differences. This is highlighted most clearly, of course, in our election slogan ‘united in diversity’. The fact that we have discussed and together considered how we should take various approaches to solve problems and understand each other’s differences has been absolutely essential for integration in Europe. Only by exchanging experience can we learn to look beyond our differences and instead try to find something that increases our respect for each other’s differences.
I am convinced that this also applies to the legal professions – to judges, prosecutors and lawyers. It is easier to build trust among the Member States’ legal systems if personal meetings take place, meetings in which people can talk to each other, conduct a dialogue and also educate each other by means of personal exchanges. Only in this way can respect and knowledge be established and our differences overcome.
An important element in ensuring that the rules we adopt here have the intended effect throughout our Member States is that we provide opportunities for greater exchange and discussion among those who are there to interpret our laws and regulations. I therefore believe that this debate at this late hour represents a proposal that will lead us closer to a common understanding of what European legal culture is and can be in the future.
Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, as we all know, the law currently consists of a multitude of binding legal standards that are not merely produced at national level, but are mostly drawn up at EU level and are to some extent also influenced by international law, not to mention the judicial decisions that, as we know, influence the ongoing development of the law. In order to keep up-to-date with the increasingly rapid developments in the judicial sphere, further training is, without doubt, essential.
Particularly if the EU is serious about increasing the protection of victims during trials and ensuring that traumatised victims are dealt with sensitively, further judicial training for legal practitioners is definitely necessary. It would also be desirable if long-standing problems of the past in connection with the rights of minorities and restitution issues were finally resolved in a satisfactory manner for those victims who have been discriminated against, not to mention the question of unlawful legislation like the Czech Beneš decrees, which are still in existence.
It will also be interesting to see whether any amendments, and what kind of amendments, result from General Comment No 34 by the UN Human Rights Committee of 2011, which questions these penalties for the denial of historical facts. After all, throughout Europe there are numerous laws that penalise the denial of historical events, such as the Armenian genocide. Judicial training will, without doubt, have to take account of that, too.
Erminia Mazzoni (PPE) . – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank Commissioner Reding for the important work she is doing, in this delicate task of shaping a European judicial culture. I thank her for recognising, in the project presented by me and my colleague, Mr Berlinguer, an opportunity to implement the Stockholm Programme and to continue on the lines set out by the Commission’s last announcement, in September, to which Commissioner Reding herself made reference.
I would, however, like to emphasise that the objective of the pilot project tabled together with Mr Berlinguer is to help build a common platform of law in the sense of a place where we can overcome the distrust not only between various Member States but also between different legal professions, and between various judicial professionals. In fact, the innovative features that we thought of introducing into this pilot project represent not only continuity of training, as very well explained by Mr Berlinguer, with an inversion of the trend in terms of supply, but first and foremost continuity in terms of ensuring that the judiciary, lawyers, notaries and university professors all share the same culture because they share the same training programmes.
Commissioner Reding was right to say in her speech that this was an important issue. However, I cannot find this highlighted in the indications that Commissioner Reding presented to this Parliament compared with the Commission’s draft proposal on this pilot project.
I would therefore like to draw attention to this point: it is important that when we start up an experimental project we involve all legal practitioners and not just magistrates. Judicial culture is not built up not only through the decisions of magistrates, judges or prosecutors whoever they may be, but it is built by sharing the same cultural background, which must belong to all stakeholders, otherwise it will not reach citizens in the way that the Stockholm protocol is trying to do.
Kinga Göncz (S&D). – (HU) Mr President, the common market and the free movement of capital, services and labour are among the most important EU acquis. The number of cross-border relations, both in personal and business life, is on the rise. On one hand, this necessitates the ability to resolve cross-border civil, commercial and family law disputes at Member State level, and the mutual recognition of Member State court judgments and decisions. On the other hand, free movement also requires European citizens’ trust in the legal certainty of the individual Member States, in the expertise of their law enforcement personnel, and in the independence and freedom from political influence of their courts. It is therefore important for us to acquaint ourselves with each other’s legal systems, and for our lawyers to be familiar with and able to appropriately apply common European norms and directives.
As shadow rapporteur for the 2014–2020 Justice Programme, I find it important to allocate sufficient and properly used resources to the training of judges and lawyers and to building this trust and guaranteeing the necessary conditions. Lawyers should know and be able to apply both the letter and spirit of EU law.
Evelyn Regner (S&D). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Reding, the Commission has set itself ambitious objectives. Fifty per cent of the members of the legal profession are to undertake judicial training beyond their national borders by 2020 – objectives that are ambitious, but not easy to implement. A positive aspect of this is that existing national and European training opportunities for this purpose are to be extended and provided with financial support.
In this regard, I would be particularly interested to know how you will deal with the problem of language barriers. The survey revealed that not that many judges speak foreign languages sufficiently well to be able to attend judicial exchange programmes in a different language. I would also be interested to know how the European Parliament is to be involved in the planned initiatives.
As you can see from the motion for a resolution, the European Parliament is fulfilling the obligations imposed on it by the Treaty and, specifically at a time when Member States are implementing national austerity packages, is putting forward good ideas for achieving the objectives. Video conferences, Internet applications and, in future, a Erasmus programme for judges, prosecutors and, hopefully soon, also criminal investigation officers and lawyers, are just a few examples.
By way of conclusion, I would just like to say how important it is for judges and representatives of the legal professions to get involved themselves, as they know best where the shortcomings are and how these can be remedied.
‘Catch the eye’ procedure
Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE). – (EL) Mr President, allow me to recount my own personal experience. One day, when I was defending a private individual in my country, Greece, I cited certain provisions of European law in order to substantiate my defence of my fellow countryman.
The judge was forced to interrupt and stay proceedings for several months, in order to obtain an interpretation from the Court of Justice of the European Union on a matter which was perfectly clear. Unfortunately, national judges do not have the experience and familiarity needed to rule directly on matters at issue during proceedings.
I think that this is a frequent occurrence in numerous Member States. It causes a great deal of inconvenience to citizens, additional bureaucracy and delays in the hearing of cases by the national courts and, of course, an excessive workload for the Court of Justice of the European Union that could certainly be avoided.
Today’s debate is therefore very important and I wish to ask a very specific question: if, Commissioner, we apply the pilot programmes on judicial training, will we also make provision for a proper assessment system? In other words, will we be able to know if that effort has direct results for citizens and improves the dispensation of justice?
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). − (SK) Mr President, the ever-changing legislative environment in the European Union places ever greater demands on our judges, prosecutors and legal professionals who must be able to apply in real time all legislative changes when carrying out their work. It is therefore essential that these people involved in the application of law in the European Union should be open to the possibility of permanent additional professional training.
For capacity, logistical and also financial reasons, I think it would be good when organising such additional training to rely on the existing network of universities and specialised schools operating in Member States which would, after receipt of the appropriate accreditation, provide the necessary additional work courses with new relationships with national, comparative and European law for judges and judicial staff. I firmly believe that this is the only way for the Commission to meet the objective that it has set itself for 2020.
(End of the ‘catch the eye’ procedure.)
Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the Commission. – (FR) Mr President, it is late, and I will be brief.
May I just thank you for your support on this very important matter. It is an essential matter, because if we want to create this Europe of justice with an area of trust, trust demands, firstly, knowledge. It is therefore vital to create the necessary pre-conditions by working together with the legal profession, and with those who hold responsibilities at national level, so that that knowledge may become a reality for the greatest possible number of legal practitioners, at all levels of responsibility.
I should like to add another point to this: trust also means meeting people. It is very important for legal practitioners from one country to get to know judges, prosecutors and lawyers from another country so that, if they have questions, they know which professional or colleague to contact.
The programmes that we are going to set up will, obviously, be content-based, but they will also be about getting to know other systems and individuals.
President. − The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Wednesday, 14 March 2012.