The judges gathering in The Hague for the General Assembly of the ENCJ ‘are ideally placed to work with us and advice us on effective justice’, says European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová. Why her emphasis on effective justice, also the theme of the ENCJ Assembly? ‘Because effective justice systems in Member States are key for upholding EU values, building trust, contributing to growth and ensuring the application of EU law’, the Czech EU Commissioner comments.
For the last two editions of the EU Justice Scoreboard (an information tool with objective, reliable and comparable data on the quality, independence and efficiency of justice systems in all Member States), the ENCJ has worked with the European Commission to design the questionnaire and making sure all Member States reply to it. EU Commissioner Věra Jourová applauds ‘the excellent cooperation with the ENCJ’. As a result, Jourová says: ‘The EU Justice Scoreboard has improved with every new edition. Previously, comparable data on structural independence was simply not available for most Member States. The ENCJ helped us in collecting information on the legal protection of judicial independence through a completely new questionnaire. It is clear that the ENCJ plays an important role and we wish to continue the good cooperation, particularly on judicial independence. The European Network of Councils for the Judiciary is a natural partner, as its members’ daily work is to ensure and defend judicial independence.’
The EU Justice Scoreboard is not a ‘beauty contest for finding the best judicial system’, Věra Jourová hastens to add. ‘In Europe we have rich and varied legal traditions that need to be safeguarded. What the EU Justice Scoreboard does is to help Member States to have a clearer image of their justice system and what needs to be improved. The 2015 Scoreboard pays particular attention to providing better information on the quality of the justice systems. Even if there is no single agreed way to measure it, the Justice Scoreboard provides information on a number of criteria, which can contribute to improve the quality of justice. For example, for the first time, it presents data on the share of female professional judges, as more gender diversity can contribute to a better quality of justice systems.’
Implementing structural reforms in the Judiciary, whether or not stemming from Scoreboard data, is not an easy task. ‘We need time to see the results’, says EU Commissioner Věra Jourová. ‘However, I'm pleased to note that there are signs of improvement. I am confident that Member States will pursue these reforms with determination and commitment. We will work together with them and all the other stakeholders and we will continue to support their efforts. And, with the help of the future editions of the EU Justice Scoreboard, we will be able to follow their progress.’
According to the ENCJ effective justice systems are closely linked to independence and accountability. Yet, according to ENCJ President Geoffrey Vos in a speech last month in Brno, an hour’s drive from Jourová’s hometown of Třebíč ‘all European judicial systems are under pressure.’ Adding: ‘Years of austerity and economic recession have made it difficult to uphold and improve the standards of justice that we aspire to.’ Yet, EU Commissioner for Justice Jourová says: ‘Despite austerity, Member States have understood that effective justice systems are an essential condition for economic growth and creating a fair single market. I also strongly believe that the efficiency of a justice system is important, but it is not enough. Indeed, quality and independence are also key components of an effective justice system. A properly functioning and independent justice system is essential to gaining the trust of citizens and investors.’