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Croatian and Slovak courts seen as 'least independent'

  • The data was released as part of the EU Commission’s annual justice scoreboard, which looks at the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in EU countries (Photo: dierk schaefer)

Croatian, Slovakian and Polish courts rank among the worst in the EU for their perceived independence, due mainly to concerns of political interference, according to new data published on Thursday (8 July) by the EU.

Bulgaria ranks at number four, followed by Italy, Spain, Hungary and Slovenia, where the majority of respondents to a survey said the independence of the courts is fairly or very bad.

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Respondents see interference or pressure from government, or politicians as the main reasons for less trust in the independence of their courts and judges.

The data was released as part of the EU Commission's annual justice scoreboard, which looks at the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in EU countries.

Companies also perceive the justice systems of Croatia, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary and Spain to be lacking independence of courts and judges.

"Compared to last year, the general public's perception of independence decreased in almost half of all member states and in about half of the member states facing specific challenges," the report said, adding that "in a few member states, the level of perceived independence remains particularly low".

In Croatia, 68 percent of people said political interference was the main reason for their perceived lack of trust in the independence of their courts and judges.

63 percent said interference or pressure from economic or other specific interests as a reason.

In Poland, 51 percent of people gave political interference as a reason, while in Slovakia, it's 52 percent, according to the Eurobarometer data.

In Bulgaria, 47 percent said political interference is the main reason for the lack of independence, while 48 percent said it is pressure from economic and other specific interests.

In Italy, 42 percent gave the main reason as pressure from the government and politics, while 41 percent said it is economic and special interests.

In Hungary, 31 percent of respondents said government pressure and political interference is the main reason of the lack of judicial independence.

Poland has faced repeated EU warnings and several court cases at the bloc's top court, the European Court of Justice, about its sweeping judicial overhaul for endangering judicial independence.

The Warsaw government has said the reforms are needed to make the court system more efficient and rid it of its communist past, and has told the EU to stay out of its internal affairs.

The independence of courts in Austria, in Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherland and Denmark is seen as very, or fairly, good.

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