The interlinking of electronic registers maintained by Member States, the use of videoconferencing in cross-border judicial proceedings and the creation of a European e-Justice portal to provide EU citizens and legal experts with a single access point to law: these are all areas where the application of modern information technologies can essentially streamline judicial practice, thus bringing citizens added value. These also happen to be the specific aspects the Czech Republic will be focusing on during its Presidency.

In developing these agendas, the Czech Republic may draw on the work done by the previous Presidencies held by Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, during which a prototype portal was created and technical aspects of registration integration were verified. The crime and insolvency registers are among the first to be integrated. Parallel to the building of this portal, a Council working party is continuing a debate on its future possible content and direction.

Cooperation in criminal matters

The primary objectives of judicial cooperation in criminal matters are currently set out in the Hague Programme and, in more detail, in the action plans of the Council and the Commission designed to implement the Hague Programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union.

With Member States exercising caution, progress in judicial cooperation in criminal matters has been rather slow, especially due to the fact that it is part of the third pillar and remains subject to unanimous voting. Even so, numerous effective means of facilitating and speeding up judicial cooperation in criminal matters have been adopted.

In cooperation in criminal matters between EU Member States, an emphasis is placed on developing the principle of mutual recognition of decisions. A recent example is the consensus on the establishment of procedures for the rendering of judgments in absentia and on the recognition of suspended sentences, alternative sanctions and conditional sentences. In the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters, the reform of Eurojust and the European Judicial Network in criminal matters has recently been negotiated. For example, the new legislation is committed to increasing the operational capacity of Eurojust, raising awareness about serious cross-border crime, and harmonising the status and increasing the powers of the national members of Eurojust. Marked progress has also been made by the EU in the surrender of persons between EU Member States on the basis of European Arrest Warrants. In order to make combating serious crime more effective, harmonising substantive criminal law measures are being adopted in the field of judicial cooperation.

In the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters, the Czech Presidency intends to undertake an initiative to prevent or handle conflicts of jurisdictions in criminal proceedings. The aim of the framework decision is to create a mechanism to prevent or handle conflicts of jurisdictions between Member States, based on exchanging information about pending criminal proceedings. During the Czech Presidency, the peer reviews of the practical implementation of the European Arrest Warrant should be completed, to be followed by consultations on the final review report.
In the field of substantive criminal law, the Presidency is prepared to continue finalising discussions on the Directive on criminal sanctions for ship-source pollution. The European Commission is expected to submit initiatives to review the Framework Decision on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and the Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings. The Czech Republic is prepared to open an active debate on both proposals.

Cooperation in civil matters

Judicial cooperation in civil matters includes measures required for the proper functioning of the internal market. These include improving and simplifying the system for cross-border service of judicial and extrajudicial documents, cooperation in the taking of evidence and the recognition and enforcement of decisions in civil and commercial cases, including decisions in extrajudicial cases. Other issues include promoting the compatibility of the conflict of law rules applicable in the Member States concerning the conflict of laws and of jurisdiction, and eliminating obstacles to the proper functioning of civil proceedings, if necessary by promoting the compatibility of the rules on civil procedure applicable in the Member States.
Certain legal instruments have been adopted in all of the above areas.

In line with the Hague Programme, the European Commission is preparing new proposals in areas not yet regulated by Community law (e.g. succession and wills) and is initiating amendments to existing legislation (e.g. a review of the Decision establishing the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters). Generally speaking, there have been efforts to deal with the conflict of  rules determining applicable law.

The Czech Presidency will focus on consultations on proposals for legislation that contribute to the further development of judicial cooperation and will result in the elimination of the remaining obstacles to the free movement of judicial decisions within the European Union. Particular attention will be paid to the practical benefits that these legal instruments have for the daily lives of European citizens.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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