Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

E-Justice reveals EU's judicial systems

Adelina Marini, July 26, 2010

If we have so far based our assumptions on stories of witnesses about where and how the judiciary works and if our judiciary was put in Bulgarian and also foreign media in a particular context, now everyone from the nearly 500 million EU population would be able to see for themselves how they can rely on each judiciary system in the 27 Member States. This is now possible thanks to the introduction of the new online portal E-Justice, officially opened on July 16. The information in it is in 22 of EU's official languages, including Bulgarian, but not all the information is available to all the languages.

So, if an Italian is travelling for Germany and needs a lawyer or a French entrepreneur wants to have a look at the Hungarian land register, or an Estonian judge has a question about the Spanish judiciary system - all this is available in the new portal. The content is over 12,000 pages. It provides opportunities for judicial assistance, training, video conferences, links to judicial data bases, land registries, etc. According to the European Commission, over 10 million EU citizens take part in trans border judicial procedures every year.

According to the Belgian Minister of Justice Stefaan De Clerck, whose country is now holding EU's rotating Presidency, this portal lays the foundations of a more efficient and accessible justice for European citizens. "E-Justice is justice at a click. We’re taking a major step today in bringing justice closer to EU citizens and in increasing mutual knowledge of each other's legal systems. With knowledge comes trust and with trust comes the confidence that your rights will be protected no matter where you are in Europe", said Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding, who is also a Vice President of the Commission.

But is this so, given that in two of EU's Member States (Bulgaria and Romania) European institutions have no confidence in their judiciaries, quite naturally though. Both countries are a subject of a constant monitoring by the Commission in the area of justice and home affairs, for an undefined period of time or - until all problems are solved.

However, it might appear that this portal would prove this additional external leverage, used by EU citizens themselves, that would force the deeply conservative and unreformed judicial systems to change. The next steps that are to be taken in the development of E-Justice speak about that. From the beginning of 2011 it is expected the portal to provide information about the rights of defendants and victims in all EU Member States and also about how the problems could be solved with violators of traffic laws in the 27 nations.

By 2013 the tool that would allow European citizens to narrow their search of lawyers should also be ready. For example, the portal would give a citizen the opportunity to find a German speaking lawyer, specialised in marriage law in Hungary.

Quite unexpectedly and surprisingly, given recent practices, the website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice has information about the official opening of the portal. The information reads that Bulgaria has made e-justice a priority in its new National Strategy, whatever this might mean.