EU Justice Scoreboard 2017: justice systems becoming more effective, but challenges remain

Brussels, 10 April 2017

Today, the European Commission publishes the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in the EU Member States.

Its aim is to assist national authorities to improve the effectiveness of their justice systems. Compared to previous editions, the 2017 Scoreboard looks into new aspects of the functioning of justice systems, for example, how easily consumers can access justice and which channels they use to submit complaints against companies. For the first time, it also shows the length of criminal court proceedings relating to money laundering offences.

“The 5th edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard confirms that effective justice systems are essential to build trust in a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market” said Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “I encourage Member States to ensure that any justice reform respects the rule of law and judicial independence. This is key for citizens and businesses to fully enjoy their rights. An independent and well-functioning justice system is a fundamental pillar of every democracy.”

Key findings of the 2017 edition include:

  • Shorter civil and commercial court proceedings: including in a number of Member States whose justice systems are facing challenges. This improvement is clearer over the five-year period than in the short-term.
  • Analysis of consumer protection enforcement: Member States are responsible for the enforcement of EU consumer law. The Scoreboard shows that the length of administrative proceedings and judicial review in this field varies a lot depending on the country. It also shows that many consumer issues are solved directly by consumer authorities and they don’t need to go to courts.
  • Analysis of the fight against money laundering: As required by the 4th Anti-Money Laundering directive, Member States have provided for the first time data in this area. It shows a large variation in case length – from less than half a year to almost three years- for proceedings dealing with anti-money laundering offenses.
  • Limited access to justice for poorer citizens: the Scoreboard shows that in some Member States, citizens whose income is below the poverty threshold do not receive any legal aid in some types of disputes.
  • Use of ICT tools still limited in some countries: while it’s widely used for communication between courts and lawyers in half of the Member States, the use of ICT for electronic signature is very limited in over half the EU countries. New data on how lawyers use ICT when communicating with courts again underlines the importance of electronic communication for well-functioning justice systems.
  • Improved or stable perception of judicial independence among the general public: this is the case in more than two-thirds of Member States, compared to 2016. The trend is the same for businesses’ perception since 2010. Among the reasons for the perceived lack of independence of courts and judges, the interference or pressure from government and politicians was the most stated reason. The 2017 edition also presents data on the safeguards in place in the different Member States to guarantee the judicial independence of judges. This reflects the strong importance of rule of law for the EU.
  • Quality standards: Most Member States have standards fixing time limits or timeframes to avoid lengthy judicial proceedings. However, such standards are not in place in certain Member States with less efficient justice systems.

Next steps

The findings of the 2017 Scoreboard are being taken into account for the ongoing country-specific assessment carried out within the 2017 European Semester process. The country reports for Member States were published on 22 February 2017 and include findings on the justice systems of a number Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia) (see IP/17/308).

Background

The Scoreboard mainly focuses on litigious civil and commercial cases as well as administrative cases in order to assist Member States in their efforts to pave the way for a more investment, business and citizen-friendly environment. The Scoreboard focuses on the three main elements of an effective justice system:

  • Efficiency: indicators on the length of proceedings, clearance rate and number of pending cases.
  • Quality: indicators on legal aid, court fees, training, monitoring of court activities, budget, and human resources.
  • Independence: indicators on the perceived judicial independence among companies and the general public, and on safeguards relating to judges.

Improving the effectiveness of national justice systems is a well-established priority of the European semester — the EU’s annual cycle of economic policy coordination. The EU Justice Scoreboard helps Member States to achieve this by providing an annual comparative overview of functioning of national justice systems. This overview is complemented by country-specific assessments carried out through bilateral dialogue with the national authorities and stakeholders concerned. This assessment may lead to country-specific recommendations on the improvement of national justice systems. In the 2016 European semester, based on a proposal from the Commission, the Council addressed country specific recommendations to six Member States in this area (Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal and Slovakia).

The Scoreboard uses different sources of information. Main sources of data are provided by the Council of Europe Commission for the Evaluation of the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ). Other sources of data include European networks such as the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary and the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and various committees in specific areas of EU legislation.

For more information

Justice Scoreboard 2017 full report

Summary of the Justice Scoreboard: Factsheet

Q&A

Annotated graphs with full figures

Eurobarometer on ‘Perceived independence of the national justice systems in the EU among the general public’

Eurobarometer on ‘Perceived independence of the national justice systems in the EU among companies’

European Semester