Commission proposes to modernise and digitalise EU civil judicial co-operation

Commission proposes to modernise and digitalise EU civil judicial co-operation
© Arno Mikkor, Aron Urb (Flickr - EU2017EE Estonian Presidency) CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The commission has proposed to modernise and digitalise judicial co-operation for cross-border civil and commercial cases throughout the EU. It aims to make access to civil justice cheaper, more efficient and more accessible to citizens and businesses.

The proposals to modernise and digitalise the co-operation will make it obligatory for courts to exchange documents electronically and will promote the use of video conferencing to hear witnesses based in another country.

Věra Jourová, commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, said: “Every year, there are approximately 3.4 million cross-border civil and commercial court proceedings in the EU. More and more people are living, studying and working in other EU countries, and businesses are expanding across borders. This proposal will give them access to faster and more affordable cross-border justice.”

The proposals will update the regulations on service of documents and on taking of evidence.

What will the updated rules change?

They will:

  • Make it necessary for courts to exchange documents electronically across borders: Currently, in a cross-border case, both member states’ justice systems involved submitting the documents by post, which is slow and incurs some costs. Changing communications from paper-based channels to electronic could save approximately €30 to €78m per year across the entire EU.
  • Introduce a uniform return slip for documents sent to people and companies by post: at the moment there are many problems with receiving documents cross-border as return slips vary and often are not correctly filled out. An estimated saving of €2.2m could be made every year.
  • Promote the use of video conferencing, making it easier for persons to be heard without requiring them to travel to another country. Video conferencing will also facilitate savings.
  • Strengthen procedural rights of the parties and access to justice:the rules will strengthen the rights of the defence, as it will clarify when and how people can exercise the right of refusal. Digitalising justice and using technologies cross-border will make justice more efficient and cheaper for people.

The rules provided for, by the regulation on service of documents, may also be relied upon in various out-of-court proceedings, for example in succession cases before a notary, or in family law cases before a public authority.

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