Strasbourg, 19 April 2012
BUREAU OF THE CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL
OF EUROPEAN JUDGES
11th meeting report
Strasbourg, 26 March 2012
Document prepared by the Secretariat
Directorate General I – Human Rights and Rule of Law
1. The Bureau of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) held its 11th meeting in Strasbourg on 26 March 2012, under the chairmanship of Mr Gerhard REISSNER (Austria).
2. The following members of the Bureau were also present:
- Mr Paul MAFFEI (Belgium), Vice-Chairman of the CCJE
- Mr Raffaele SABATO (Italy),
- Mr Bart VAN LIEROP (the Netherlands).
3. The agenda is set out in Appendix I.
4. Mr Raffaele SABATO presented the excuses on behalf of Ms Maria Giuliana CIVININI (Italy), scientific expert appointed by the Secretariat, who had to cancel her scheduled participation in the meetings of the Bureau and of the Working Group at short notice due to health problems.
II. PREPARATION OF OPINION No. 15
5. The Bureau examined the draft Report on the specialisation of judges (Document CCJE-GT(2012)1), prepared by Ms Maria Giuliana CIVININI, on the basis of the replies to the relevant questionnaire submitted by 26 member States. The Bureau thanked the expert for the high quality of her report and noted the usefulness of it for the preparation of the draft Opinion.
6. The Bureau subsequently discussed the requirements to the draft structure of the Opinion to be prepared in the course of the 22nd meeting of the Working Group (26-28 March 2012, Strasbourg). The structure should be as detailed as possible in order to provide useful guidance to the drafters.
7. It was agreed that, to ensure good quality of the text of the Opinion, both the English and the French version should be reviewed by native speakers of the languages in advance of the CCJE plenary meeting (5-7 November 2012).
III. OTHER ACTIVITIES OF THE CCJE
Cooperation with member States
8. The members of the Bureau have once again expressed their concern with regard to the current developments in the status of judges in Serbia, and in particular the practice of reappointing judges through elections. They felt that the seriousness of the problem seems to be underestimated by the EU authorities. In their view, the current situation does not facilitate trust in the independence of the Serbian judiciary with which EU judges will soon need to cooperate. At the moment there are no sufficient guarantees of the judicial independence and impartiality in the country.
9. The members of the Bureau agreed that, despite the fact that the competence of the CCJE is limited in this sphere, it should nevertheless formulate a clear position on this important issue. The Report on specific assistance activities and infringements against judges in Europe (Document CCJE(2012)2) that is to be updated and presented to the Committee of Ministers at regular intervals offers an opportunity to do so.
10. As already done by the CCJE at it 12th plenary meeting (Strasbourg, 7-9 November 2012), the members of the Bureau expressed their concern with the direction that the ongoing constitutional reform in Hungary is taking, and in particular as regards the newly established body for the administration of justice. In the opinion of the Bureau the competencies of this new body are much too broad, whereas the way in which it is composed does not guarantee a full independence.
11. The CCJE in its consultative role would be the appropriate authority to formulate an opinion on this matter. However, the CCJE did not yet receive any complaint from a Hungarian or international association of judges, nor from individual interested persons. The question is if the Bureau of the CCJE should give an opinion ex officio when, as in the Hungarian case, the infringements have become generally known and subject to general criticism.
12. The members felt that the information regarding the situation in this country is fragmented, and at the moment it is difficult to take a clear stand. The Bureau notes the importance to update the report referred to in paragraph 9 above regarding Hungary. The Bureau decides to question the Hungarian member of the CCJE on the evolution of the situation and to react to the Venice Commission’s Opinion recently published (Opinion on Act CLXII of 2011 on the legal status and remuneration of judges and Act CLXI of 2011 on the organization and administration of courts of Hungary (Document CDL-AD(2012)001).
13. Mr Gerhard REISSNER conveyed to the Bureau members a request for cooperation from Germany regarding the possibility of establishing a national council for the judiciary in this country. The matter is currently reviewed by a special national commission composed of representatives of the regional ministries of justice, judicial associations and academia. In particular, members of this commission would like to hold an exchange of opinions with the CCJE at the occasion of one of its regular meeting. It was decided to request more information regarding the needs and wishes of the commission in order to prepare a meeting.
Cooperation with non-member States within the framework of the South Facility
14. Mr Bart VAN LIEROP informed the Bureau of his participation, on 21-22 March 2012, in the Seminar on the independence of the judiciary in Tunisia, organised by the Venice Commission and the Department for the independence and efficiency of justice of the Council of Europe. The meeting attracted members of judicial associations of the country; a very open discussion took place, during which it became clear that the Tunisian judges are committed to the values of rule of law and democracy, and are prepared to a dialogue with their colleagues from the Council of Europe member States. However, at the moment the Venice Commission is to play the leading role in this cooperation; the CCJE may become more involved in this work at a later stage.
15. The members of the Bureau agreed that it is necessary to establish a genuine two-way cooperation with the countries covered by this Programme (Marocco, Tunisia and Jordan).
16. Mr Rafaele SABATO informed the other members of the Bureau that a newly established academy for judicial training in Italy will soon take over all the activity as regards the training of judges in the country.
17. The Chairman of the CCJE informed the other members of the Bureau of his participation in the International Conference on the Rule of Law as a Practical Concept (London, UK) on 2 March 2012, organised by the Venice Commission under the auspices of the UK Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. He pointed out that the current work of the Venice Commission on the definition of the term “rule of law” is of particular interest to the CCJE, as it concerns core issues for the judiciary. Also, the Venice Commission is increasingly requested to give opinions on matters related to the judiciary. Therefore cooperation with the Commission in matters of the rule of law for the judiciary should be sought.
18. Mr Raffaele SABATO informed the Bureau of the wish of the Chairman of the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) Mr Lorenzo Salazar to organize common activities with the CCJE and the CCPE during his term of office. He will therefore invite the Chairmen of the two Consultative Councils to take part in the next plenary meeting of the CDPC scheduled for 29 May – 1 June 2012. Possible areas of cooperation are:
- Relations between judges and lawyers (in particular in criminal proceedings), as these relations seem to be problematic at least in some countries;
- Different approaches of judges and lawyers to relations with the media in all types of proceedings.
19. Mr Bart VAN LIEROP informed the Bureau of his participation in the last plenary meeting of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) on 24-25 November 2011 and provided an update on the work of the CCPE, in particular the adoption of an Opinion on the relationship between prosecutors and prison administration and the preparation in 2012 of an Opinion concerning the management of the means of the prosecution services.
20. Mr Gerhard REISSNER informed the Bureau of his participation in the last plenary meeting of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) on 7-8 December 2011 in Strasbourg, and provided an update on the work of the CEPEJ, including the preparation of the new edition of the CEPEJ Report “European Judicial Systems: Efficiency and Quality of Justice” (Edition 2012, data 2010).
21. The Secretariat also informed the members of the Bureau that CEPEJ experts are currently working on a specific report for the European Union that will provide an assessment of the influence of the efficiency of justice on the economic development in its member States.
22. Finally, the Secretariat also informed the Bureau on the traditional exchange of views between the Committee of Ministers and the Chairmen of the CCJE and the CCPE that took place on 18 January (the CCJE was represented by its former Chairman Mr Orlando AFONSO whose term of office ended on 31 December 2011). The questions asked by the members of the CM were mainly linked to the Report on specific assistance activities and infringements against judges in Europe which was very welcomed and considered to be a useful exercise.
IV. APPOINTMENT OF THE GENDER EQUALITY RAPPORTEUR
23. The Bureau discussed various aspects to be taken into account for the appointment of a gender equality rapporteur of the CCJE for 2012-2013 in accordance with its terms of reference. It was pointed out that membership of the future rapporteur in the Bureau and/or in the Working Group of the CCJE would be of an advantage, because he/she needs to be well aware of the whole spectrum of the works of the CCJE.
24. The Bureau therefore decided to launch a call for volunteers wishing to take up this work among the members of the CCJE Working Group at its 22nd meeting.
V. OTHER BUSINESS
25. The Bureau examined the preliminary Opinion of the ECHR in preparation for the Brighton Conference devoted to the Court and the Convention system. The Secretariat suggested to wait for a possible request for a CCJE opinion by a concerned body of the Council of Europe. The Bureau decided however to prepare a document expressing some suggestions on behalf of the CCJE concerning this document and the future of the Court and to publish it on the CCJE website.
26. The next Bureau meeting is scheduled on Monday 18 June 2012 in the morning, in advance of the 23rd meeting of the CCJE Working Group (scheduled for 18-20 June).
27. The Bureau also confirmed its intention to hold a working meeting on 14 September 2012 in Lisbon in order to review the developments with respect to the infringements against judges in Europe and to update the relevant report.
1. Opening of the meeting / Ouverture de la réunion
2. Adoption of the agenda / Adoption de l’ordre du jour
3. Communication by the President, members of the Bureau and the Secretariat / Communication du Président, des membres du Bureau et du Secrétariat
4. Preparation of the 22nd CCJE-GT meeting and the draft Opinion No. 15 on the specialisation of judges / Préparation de la 22ème réunion du CCJE-GT et du projet d’Avis n° 15 sur la spécialisation des juges
5. Other work of the CCJE / Autres travaux du CCJE
· Specific assistance activities of the CCJE / Activités d’assistance spécifique du CCJE
· Participation of the CCJE in other meetings in and outside the Council of Europe / Participation du CCJE à d’autres réunions au sein et hors Conseil de l’Europe
6. Appointment of the Gender Equality Rapporteur / Nomination du rapporteur sur l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes
7. Any other business / Divers