Making justice systems work
The annual Scoreboard shows slow but steady improvement, with consistent challenges remaining
13 April, 2017
Justice systems in the EU Member States became more efficient, independent and of better quality in the last 12 months, but still a lot of challenges remain, according to the EU Justice Scoreboard 2017. Released last Monday by the Commission, its main aim is to assist national authorities to improve the effectiveness of their justice systems. Compared to previous editions, the 2017 Scoreboard looks into new aspects of the functioning of justice systems, for example, how easily citizens can access justice and which channels they use to submit complaints against companies. For the first time, it also shows the length of criminal court proceedings relating to money laundering offences.
“The 5th edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard confirms that effective justice systems are essential to build trust in a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market. I encourage Member States to ensure that any justice reform respects the rule of law and judicial independence. This is key for citizens and businesses to fully enjoy their rights. An independent and well-functioning justice system is a fundamental pillar of every democracy,” Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said.
According to the Scoreboard, in 2016 civil and commercial court proceedings became shorter, even in a number of Member States whose justice systems are still facing challenges. However, this improvement is clearer over the five-year period than in the short-term.
As far as consumer protection enforcement is concerned, the length of administrative proceedings and judicial review varies a lot depending on the country. While Member States are responsible for the enforcement of EU consumer law, many consumer issues are solved directly by consumer authorities and they don't need to go to courts.
As required by the 4th Anti-Money Laundering directive, Member States have provided for the first time data on the fight against money laundering. It shows a large variation in case length - from less than half a year to almost three years.
While perception of judicial independence among the general public is either improved or at least stable in more than two-thirds of Member States, there is still perceived lack of independence of courts and judges mainly due to interference or pressure from government and politicians. At the same time the Scoreboard shows that in some Member States, citizens whose income is below the poverty threshold do not receive any legal aid in some types of disputes.
According to the Scoreboard, use of ICT tools remains still limited in some countries. While it is widely used for communication between courts and lawyers in half of the Member States, the use of ICT for electronic signature is very limited in over half the EU countries. While most Member States have standards fixing time limits to avoid lengthy judicial proceedings, such standards are not in place in certain Member States with less efficient justice systems, the Scoreboard concludes.
The findings of the 2017 Scoreboard will be taken into account for the ongoing country-specific assessment carried out within the 2017 European Semester process. The country reports for Member States were published on 22 February 2017 and include findings on the justice systems of a number of Member States including Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Poland, Romania, etc.
The Scoreboard mainly focuses on litigious civil and commercial cases as well as administrative cases in order to assist Member States in their efforts to pave the way for a more investment, business and citizen-friendly environment. Improving the effectiveness of national justice systems is a well-established priority of the European semester. The Soreboard helps Member States to achieve this by providing an annual comparative overview of functioning of national justice systems.
The Scoreboard uses different sources of information. Main sources of data are provided by the Council of European Commission for the Evaluation of the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ). Other sources of data include European networks such as the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary and the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and various committees in specific areas of EU legislation.