24th Mar 2018

EU justice scoreboard upsets some member states

  • The participation rate of judges in continuous training activities on EU law is above 50% in nearly a third of member states (Photo: Scott*)

The European Commission presented its second annual justice scoreboard on Monday (17 March) but not all member states like the idea.

The Brussels-executive describes the scoreboard as an information tool for member states to improve the quality, independence, and efficiency of their individual justice systems.

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It argues that better justice systems attract business and can help promote growth.

“The legal system plays a key role in attracting or repelling foreign direct investments,” EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding told reporters in Brussels.

The findings are intended to contribute to the so-called European Semester, which outlines budgetary and financial policies to keep governments in track on overall objectives.

Member states that fall behind in modernising their justice systems are likely to be issued country-specific recommendations.

Last year, recommendations were issued to 10 member states.

Not everyone is playing along.

Some are providing fewer data sets compared to the first scorecard.

“In certain graphs, it is true that we have less data,” said a EU source.

The data is primarily sourced from the Strasbourg human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe. Other data sets come from places like the World Bank or the EU’s statistical office Eurostat.

The 2014 scoreboard compares the data collected from 2010 to 2012.

But some of the scoreboard data sets on the charts dated 2010 from Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, Romania, Cyprus, and Hungary are missing for 2012.

The UK provides data on its justice system to the Council of Europe but does not to want participate in the European Commission's scoreboard.

"We have no intention of the UK becoming part of a one-size-fits-all EU justice system,” said UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in a statement on Monday.

Grayling refutes the commission’s claim that the scoreboard is a tool for promoting effective justice and growth.

“I do not believe that the commission has any role in the detailed monitoring or assessment of the justice systems of member states to secure this goal,” he said.

Member states in late February after a justice and home affairs meeting in Brussels offered a cautious response to its methodology.

They noted, in a seven-page communication, that the quality of national judicial decisions is difficult to quantify.

“The results of any such exercise should in any case be of a non-binding, non-compulsory nature and should not lead to any kind of ranking of the member states,” noted the paper.

But whereas some member states reject the premise of the scoreboard, others have welcomed it, said the commissioner.

“I am glad to say that some member states have really asked for this help and we have sent over them the best experts from the European Union and from other member states,” she said.

The findings provide a range of results on the length of proceedings, the clearance rates of resolving cases, the number of pending cases, training of judges, use of technology, money spent, and perceived independence among other things.

It found that one-third of the member states have a length of proceedings at least twice as long as the majority of the member states.

“Something is going wrong there,” said Reding.

At nearly 700 days, the time needed to resolve litigious civil and commercial cases among the member states that provided data, is the longest in Malta.

In Latvia, it takes around 50 days.

Backlogs of cases also vary.

Italy has the most pending civil and commercial cases, among member states that provided data, followed by Croatia and Greece.

Perception of independence in several member states has improved but has slipped in Slovakia and Bulgaria, according to the World Economic Forum.

Both member states rank 133 and 123, respectively, out of a ranking of 148 countries.

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