Today, the European Commission publishes the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in the EU Member States. The aim of the Scoreboard is to assist national authorities in their efforts to improve their justice systems, by providing this comparative data.
For the first time, the Justice Scoreboard also includes the results of Eurobarometer surveys conducted to examine the perception of judicial independence in the EU among citizens and businesses in more detail. This edition of the Scoreboard also uses new indicators, in particular on judicial training, the use of surveys, the availability of legal aid and the existence of quality standards.
“The fourth EU Justice Scoreboard shows that Member States’ efforts to improve justice systems continue to bear fruit. The key role of national justice systems in upholding the rule of law, enforcing EU law and establishing an investment-friendly environment deserve these efforts” saidVĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “The Scoreboard serves as a tool to learn from each other to render European justice systems more effective.”
Key findings from the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard include:
- Shorter duration of litigious civil and commercial cases: While there is overall stability on pending cases, improvement can be observed in several Member States that faced particular challenges with a high number of pending cases.
- Better accessibility of justice systems, in particular in matters like electronic submission of small claims or promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods. However, there is still room for improvement in online availability of judgements or electronic communication between courts and parties.
- Further efforts are still needed to improve the training in judicial skills and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT)for case management systems.
- Most Member States have standards covering similar aspects of their justice systems, but there are significant differences as regards their content. For example, less than half of Member States have standards on measures to reduce existing backlogs and even fewer define the maximum age that pending cases should have.
- The Scoreboard incorporates the results of different surveys on the perception of judicial independence. For Member States where perceived independence is very low, the most notable reasons given included interference or pressure from government and politicians, and from economic or other specific interests.
The findings of the 2016 Scoreboard are being taken into account for the ongoing country-specific assessment carried out in the context of the 2016 European Semester process. The country reports for 26 Member States were published on 26 February 2016 and include findings on the justice systems of a number Member States (BE, BG, HR, ES, HU, IE, IT, LV, MT, PL, PT, RO, SI and SK) (see for latest reports on the 2016 European Semester, IP/16/332 and MEMO/16/334).
The Commission will continue to encourage the judicial networks to deepen their assessment of the effectiveness of legal safeguards aimed at protecting judicial independence.
This is the fourth edition of the Justice Scoreboard. The 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard brings together data from various sources, in particular data provided by the Council of Europe Commission for the Evaluation of the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), which collects data from Member States. It also uses information obtained from other sources, for example Eurostat, the group of contact persons on national justice systems, the European judicial networks such as the European Network of Councils of the Judiciary (ENCJ), the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU or the European Judicial Training Network.
The Scoreboard focuses on three main aspects:
- Efficiency of justice systems: indicators on the efficiency of proceedings: length of proceedings, clearance rate and number of pending cases.
- Quality indicators: training, monitoring and evaluation of court activities, the use of satisfaction surveys, budget, and human resources.
- Independence: the Scoreboard incorporates data from different surveys on the perceived judicial independence by companies and the general public.
The EU Justice Scoreboard contributes to the European Semester process by helping to identify justice related issues that deserve particular attention for an investment, business and citizen-friendly environment. It focuses on civil and commercial cases as well as administrative cases.
Together with the specific assessment of the situation in Member States, the 2015 EU Justice Scoreboard contributed to the proposal of the Commission the Council to address Country Specific Recommendations to four Member States (Croatia, Italy, Latvia and Slovenia) to render their justice system more effective. The Commission also closely monitors the efforts in this area in other Member States such as Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia.
The findings of the Scoreboard are also taken into account when deciding the funding priorities under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) as regards justice reforms.
While the Scoreboard does not present an overall single ranking, it gives an overview of the functioning of all justice systems based on various indicators, which are of common interest for all Member States. It does not promote any particular type of justice system and treats all Member States on an equal footing. Whatever the model of the national justice system or the legal tradition in which it is anchored, timeliness, independence, affordability, and user-friendly access are some of the essential parameters of what constitutes an effective justice system.