Procedure : 2006/2534(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B6-0203/2006

Texts tabled :

B6-0203/2006

Debates :

PV 22/03/2006 - 6

Votes :

PV 23/03/2006 - 11.7

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0108

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
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16.3.2006
PE 371.630v01-00
 
B6‑0203/2006
further to Question for Oral Answer B6‑0005/2006
pursuant to Rule 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure
by
Klaus-Heiner Lehne and Giuseppe Gargani, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group
Maria Berger, on behalf of the PSE Group
Diana Wallis, on behalf of the ALDE Group
Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group
Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group
on legal professions and general interest in the functioning of legal systems

European Parliament resolution on legal professions and general interest in the functioning of legal systems 
B6‑0203/2006

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the UN’s Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers of 7 September 1990,

–  having regard to Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(2000)21 on the freedom of exercise of the profession of lawyer of 25 October 2000,

–  having regard to its resolution of 18 January 1994 on the profession of notary in the Community,

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 April 2001 on scale fees and compulsory tariffs for certain liberal professions, in particular lawyers, and on the particular role and position of the liberal professions in modern society,

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2003 on market regulations and competition rules for the liberal professions,

–  having regard to Directives 1977/249/EEC, 98/5/EC and 2005/36/EC,

–  having regard to its legislative resolution on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on services in the internal market of 16 February 2006,

–  having regard to the Commission communication ‘Professional Services - scope for more reform’ of 5 September 2005,

–  having regard to Rule 108(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the Court of Justice of the European Communities has recognised that:

   -independence, absence of conflicts of interest, and professional    secrecy/confidentiality are core values of the legal profession that do qualify as    public interest considerations;
   -regulations to protect core values are necessary for the proper practice of the legal    profession, despite the restrictions on competition that might be inherent in them,

B.  whereas any reform of legal professions has far-reaching consequences going beyond competition law into the field of freedom, security and justice and, more broadly, into the protection of the rule of law in the European Union,

C.  whereas the UN’s Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers of 7 September 1990 provide that:

   -lawyers shall be entitled to form and join self-governing professional    associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and    training and protect their professional integrity. The executive body of the    professional associations shall be elected by its members and shall exercise its    functions without external interference;
   -professional associations of lawyers have a vital role to play in upholding    professional standards and ethics, protecting their members from persecution    and improper restrictions and infringements, providing legal services to all in    need of them, and cooperating with governmental and other institutions in    furthering the ends of justice and public interest;
   -disciplinary proceedings against lawyers shall be brought before an impartial    disciplinary committee established by the legal profession, before an    independent statutory authority, or before a court, and shall be subject to an    independent judicial review,

D.  whereas adequate protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms to which all persons are entitled, be they economic, social and cultural, or civil and political, requires that all persons should have effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession,

E.  whereas the importance of ethical conduct, of maintaining confidentiality with clients and of a high level of specialised knowledge necessitates the organisation of self-regulation systems such as those run today by legal professional bodies and orders,

F.  whereas civil law notaries are appointed by Member States as public officials whose tasks include drawing up official documents with special value as evidence and immediate enforceability,

G.  whereas civil law notaries take on extensive investigation and scrutiny work on behalf of the State in matters relating to non-judicial legal protection, particularly in connection with company law - under Community law in some cases - and as part of this work they are subject to disciplinary supervision by the relevant Member State that is comparable to that applicable to judges and civil servants,

H.  whereas the partial delegation of the authority of the State is an original element inherent to the exercise of the profession of civil law notary, and whereas it is actually exercised on a regular basis and represents a major part of the activities of a civil law notary,

1.  Recognises fully the crucial role played by the legal professions in a democratic society to guarantee respect for fundamental rights, the rule of law and security in the application of the law, both when lawyers represent and defend clients in court and when they are giving their clients legal advice;

2.  Reaffirms the positions taken in its resolutions of 18 January 1994, 5 April 2001 and 16 December 2003;

3.  Notes the high qualifications required for access to the legal professions, the need to protect those qualifications that characterise the legal professions, in the interests of European citizens, and the need to establish a specific relationship based on trust between the legal professions and their clients;

4.  Reaffirms the importance of rules which are necessary to ensure the independence, competence, integrity and responsibility of the members of legal professions so as to guarantee the quality of their services, to the benefit of their clients and society in general, and in order to safeguard the public interest;

5.  Welcomes the Commission’s recognition that reforms are best carried out at national level and that the authorities of the Member States, notably the legislative bodies, are in the best position to define the rules that apply to legal professions;

6.  Point out that the Court of Justice allowed national legislators and professional associations and bodies a margin of discretion when deciding what is appropriate and necessary to protect the proper exercise of legal professions in a Member State;

7.  Notes that each type of activity of a professional body must be looked at separately, so that the rules on competition are applied to the association only when it is acting exclusively in the interests of its members and not when it is acting in the general interest;

8.  Reminds the Commission that the aims of the regulation on legal services are the protection of the general public, the guarantee of the right of defence and access to justice, and security in the application of the law, and that for these reasons it cannot be tailored to the degree of sophistication of the client;

9.  Encourages professional bodies, organisations and associations of legal professions to set up codes of conduct at European level, including rules relating to organisation, qualifications, professional ethics, supervision, liability and commercial communications, in order to ensure that the ultimate consumers of legal services are provided with the necessary guarantees in relation to integrity and experience and ensure the sound administration of justice;

10.  Invites the Commission to apply competition rules, if applicable, in compliance with the case-law of the Court of Justice;

11.  Considers that the public interests overriding EU competition principles are to be found in the legal system of the Member State in which the regulation is adopted or produces its effects, and that there is no such thing as an EU public interest test, however defined;

12.  Invites the Commission not to apply EU competition law to matters which, under the EU constitutional framework, are left to the jurisdiction of the Member States, such as access to justice, which includes issues such as fee schedules to be applied by courts to liquidate lawyers’ fees;

13.  Stresses that previous obstacles to the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services of legal professionals have been efficiently removed by Directives 1977/249/EEC, 98/5/EC and 2005/36/EC;

14.  Considers that Article 49 of the EC Treaty, Directive 2005/36/EC and Directive 77/249/EEC make provision for the application of the principle of the country of destination to scale fees and compulsory tariffs for lawyers and other legal professionals;

15.  Considers that Article 45 of the EC Treaty must be fully applied to the profession of civil law notary as such;

16.  Calls on the Commission to consider carefully the principles and concerns expressed in this resolution when analysing the rules governing the exercise of legal professions in the Member States;

17.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission.

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