Practical Cooperation in judicial matters: the Council’s priorities for the next 18 months

Regarding the horizontal issues in the field of justice, the Spanish, Belgium, and Hungarian Presidencies will prioritise the protection and promotion of fundamental rights, the protection of personal data, E-Justice and the training of judges, prosecutors and judicial staff.

Promotion of fundamental rights: it becomes a main objective of the European Union, both internally and externally now that the European Charter has become legally binding. Indeed, the Council commits itself to a stricter cooperation with the European Parliament and the Commission, especially concerning evaluation reports on the impact of the new legislation. In this perspective, the Agency for Fundamental Rights will be increasingly involved and the European Union will accede to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms via a procedure of urgency. In this regard the Council of Europe has already been contacted during the Swedish presidency and a negotiating mandate might be already submitted by the European Commission after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. However, the unanimity by the council and national ratification’s requirements might postpone the official entry into force of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Concerning personal data protection (finally relying upon a specific legal basis art.16 TFEU s well as on the Charter itself) the European Union will develop a proactive and consistent approach when developing a global strategy on information systems in the field of internal security.

As already announced by the Stockholm Programme 2010-2014, the three presidencies will encourage the training of judges, prosecutors and staff of the

Administration of Justice in cooperation between the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN) and the relevant national training centres. It goes without saying, that within a Europe at 27, a particular attention will be put on translation and interpretation.

The use of the information and communication technologies will have a central role in the implementation of the e-justice programme whose implementation will be assessed by 2011 in view of the launch of further projects such as the interconnection of registers of wills and the training of legal practitioners.
Judicial Cooperation in Civil law matters: The three Presidencies will continue to work on family law and divorce matters. These initiatives had been interrupted following the opposition of the Swedish delegation at the beginning of 2009, although the unanimity requirements foreseen also by the Treaty of Lisbon do not make things easier.

Also work sin the field of international private law will continue and contacts with the Hague Conference will be strengthened.

Therefore, work on further developing the principle of mutual recognition will be further pursued for the judgments in civil and commercial matters, legal assistance, European order for payment procedure and the European Small Claims Procedure.

In the field of succession and wills a communitarian regulation will be adopted keeping in mind the consultation of the green paper of the Commission.

The review of Regulation 44/2001/EC on recognition and implementation of judgments in civil and commercial matters is also foreseen in order to abolish the exequatur procedure in this field. Lastly, the Presidencies will work on improvement of cross-border enforcement of the judgements given in a Member State in another one, in particular through an analysis of mechanisms for the attachment of bank accounts.

Judicial Cooperation in Criminal matters The principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions in criminal matters successfully used in relation to the European Arrest Warrant will be further extended by promoting as much as possible contacts between judges of different countries. In order to accept the evidences gathered in another Member States the presidencies will proceed on the strengthening of the application of the principle of mutual recognition in the field of evidence in criminal proceedings, the feasibility of achieving a general instrument replacing the European evidence warrant (possibly called “European Investigation Order”).

In addition, the three Presidencies will also focus on the enhancement of the application of the principle of mutual recognition to the exchange of information on criminal records, the approximation of procedural law, the cooperation between judicial authorities concerning the conduct of proceedings, and the protection of the vulnerable persons and assistance to victims.

With a view to facilitating judicial cooperation between Member States, the three Presidencies will aim at strengthening the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) through the establishment of a European Index of convicted third country nationals and will examine the possibilities of exchanging information on supervisory measures adopted in ongoing criminal proceedings and on non final judgments.
To complement measures related to mutual recognition the European Union will proceed on the harmonisation of legal instruments in view of setting common minimum standards as to procedural rights and guarantees for individuals in criminal proceedings, as well as the revision of the Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings (2001/220/JHA) on the basis of the recently adopted roadmap.

The three Presidencies will continue work in view of establishing common rules on the ne bis in idem principle in light of the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice and the green paper of the Commission.

The three Presidencies will work on a new legal framework to allow the transfer of criminal proceedings from one Member State to another.

The three Presidencies will aim at improving the legal framework for the protection of children and will launch an Action Plan against sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the assistance to victims, inter alia, victims of terrorism as well as victims of gender-based and domestic violence. To this end, work will be pursued towards a European legal framework, to remove any obstacle to an effective implementation of protection measures in the whole territory of the EU, in order for victims under threat to receive the necessary protection regardless of their residence. In line with the Stockholm Programme, the three Presidencies will take work further on a European Protection order.

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