EU justice scoreboard: Comparative overview of judiciaries in member states but no specific targets

The European Commission replies to questions on the scoreboard.

The 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard was published on 11 April as already reported by The Brussels Times, please see here.

The scoreboard 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.

The Brussels Times has asked the European Commission to comment on some of the figures in the Justice Scoreboard and here are the replies we received from a Commission official.

Question: Has the Commission formulated any specific and quantifiable targets for the indicators on efficiency and quality?

Answer: The EU Justice Scoreboard does not promote any particular type of justice system but provides a regular yearly comparative overview of how civil, commercial and administrative justice systems function on the basis of various indicators such as efficiency, quality and independence of national justice systems which are of common interest to all Member States.

The Justice Scoreboard does not set targets or rank Member States, but gives a comparative overview of the functioning of the respective justice system.

Regarding the efficiency indicators, the Justice Scoreboard provides a deeper insight into certain areas, particularly this time on the length of judicial proceedings in the area electronic communication law. Furthermore, new quality indicators have been introduced, such as the follow-up given to satisfaction surveys, the availability of legal aid and the existence of quality standards (e.g. on information given to parties, management of cases or the elaboration of judgements).

Question: Could you give examples of EU member states that need to improve their justice systems and in which areas?

Answer: The situation varies significantly depending on the indicator. The same member states may perform well according to some indicators and less well with others.

However, some general trends can be given:

       On efficiency it appears that for litigious civil and commercial cases the length of proceedings has improved in more countries than it has not. However, for administrative cases the situation has deteriorated. As regards pending cases, there has been a slight overall reduction in all categories of cases.

        On quality, we can observe for example an improvement in a large number of member states regarding small claims procedures online.

       On judicial independence the World Economic Forum survey, presented for the fourth time, shows that the businesses’ perception of independence has mostly improved or remained stable, with notable improvements in a few Member States with low level of perceived independence.

If the scoreboard reveals poor performance, this always requires a deeper analysis of the reasons why. This country-specific assessment is carried out in the context of the European Semester process, also through bilateral dialogue with the authorities and stakeholders. It may lead the Commission to propose Country-Specific Recommendations in some cases to improve national justice systems.  

Question: From a quick look at the figures, it seems that countries which low efficiency and quality also have the highest number of lawyers. Is it because that there is a bigger need for lawyers if the justice system isn’t functioning very well and the citizens get lost in the system?

Answer: While it is clear that high-quality justice requires an adequate level of human resources, there is no correlation between the number of lawyers and the performance of justice systems.  

Question:  Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation is becoming more important. What is the Commission’s policy on this? Is it a method that also ombudsman institutions can use as an alternative to treatment of complaints?

Answer: The role and powers of a national Ombudsman varies according to each member state. A National Ombudsman can contribute to address certain disputes without having to go to courts and to a certain extent a national Ombudsman can be seen as having an ADR function.

The Commission promotes ADR through several EU instruments and initiatives: EU legislation ensures that consumers can submit complaints against traders to entities offering ADR procedures and establishes a European Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform; the Mediation Directive has as objective to facilitate access to ADR and promote amicable settlement in cross-border civil and commercial disputes; the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard provides comparative information on the ways and incentives used by Members States to promote the use of alternative dispute resolution.

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