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E-justice - from pilot projects to practical solutions

At informal meeting of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs, the Ministers discussed the steps to be taken next to further develop the field of e-justice. In the upcoming period, the Presidency will focus strongly on specific projects that will yield tangible results. The European e-justice portal is one such project.

“Considering the widespread nature of information technology, an increasing interest in electronic cooperation and operation has been noted on the part of our citizens, including in the field of justice. It is our task to respond to this interest and offer this kind of service to EU citizens in the field of justice too”, stressed Slovenian Justice Minister Dr Lovro Šturm, currently presiding the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council.

The Ministers discussed the opportunities which the planned EU e-justice portal project offers users. The portal will be the key point of access to legal information, legal and administrative institutions, registers, databases and other services with a view to accelerating the everyday tasks of EU citizens, legal and other experts, employees and other professionals and entities within the framework of European justice.

E-justice activities are currently implemented in several priority areas. A group has been established for setting up the European e-justice portal, which, in the first stage, is linking up insolvency registers and will in future also link up other Member State registers, including economic or business registers and land registers. Currently, the project of interconnecting criminal records is the most advanced. The plan includes encouraging wider use of videoconferencing in cross-border judicial cases, as this provides new possibilities for cooperation in proceedings between courts and other institutions (for example, hearing witnesses and expert testimony, etc.). The project of the European payment order and its electronic application is in progress as well.

The president of the meeting, Dr Lovro Šturm, thanked the ministers for the efforts of the member states in the computerisation of the judiciary:  “Almost every project has the support of one of the Member States and we are very thankful to them. However, it has to be stressed that the activities within every project require much coordination and personal input.”

The Ministers discussed the timeframe for opening the e-justice portal to the public. They agreed that the work on the European Justice Portal must begin by a pilot project and become open to public in a foreseeable future, i.e. in the period of 24 months, with limited set of services; before that, this timeline must be reviewed after 12 months. The ministers agreed that the e-justice system as well as the European Justice Portal must develop in a decentralised manner. Nevertheless, this requires certain coordination by a central body, which will accelerate the coordination from the organisational, substantive and technical aspects. A successful development of e-justice requires constant financial resources both at the national and at the EU level. Therefore the ministers invite the Commission to examine the issue of financing and propose any new ideas to secure financial resources from the so-called horizontal projects such as the European Justice Portal. These projects concern both the civil and criminal law programmes. Namely, the horizontal nature of these projects may cause delays in financing.

The Slovenian Minister of Justice invited all the participating Ministers to attend the international conference on e-justice and e-law, which will be organised by the Slovenian Presidency in Portorož from 1 to 3 June 2008. 

The conference will deal with the following topics:

  • sharing experience of increasing the efficiency of national judicial systems,
  • sharing experience of the latest global trends in e-justice,
  • integrating services and exchanging e-justice systems at EU level,
  • presentation of the latest legal services supported by Information & Communications Technology (ICT),
  • sharing experience in legal data management (e-law).

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Date: 01.02.2008