(Source: European Commission)
Today, the European Commission has published the 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard, which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in EU Member States. This is already the tenth edition, which allows for a long- term overview of how the situation in Member States has evolved in all three areas of effective justice.
What is the EU Justice Scoreboard?
The EU Justice Scoreboard is a comparative information tool which aims to assist the EU and Member States to improve the effectiveness of national justice systems. It does this by providing data on the efficiency, quality and independence of the justice systems in all Member States. It is one of the tools in the EU’s Rule of Law toolbox used by the Commission to monitor justice reforms undertaken by Member States.
The Scoreboard contributes to identifying good practices and potential shortcomings. It shows trends in the functioning of national justice systems over time. It does not present an overall single ranking, but an overview of how all the justice systems function. This is based on various indicators that are of common interest to all Member States.
The Scoreboard does not promote any particular type of justice system and puts all Member States on an equal footing. Whatever the model of the national justice system – or the legal tradition in which it is anchored – timeliness, independence, affordability and user-friendly access are some of the essential features of an effective justice system.
Why are national justice systems important for the EU?
Effective justice systems are essential for the application and enforcement of EU law and for upholding the rule of law and other values upon which the EU is founded and which are common to the Member States. They ensure that individuals and businesses can fully enjoy their rights, strengthen mutual trust, and help to build a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market. Effective justice systems are crucial for the implementation of EU law because national courts act as EU courts when applying EU law.
What about the link between the Scoreboard and the Rule of Law Report?
The EU Justice Scoreboard is part of the EU’s rule of law toolbox and one of the sources of information for the Rule of Law Report. It provides comparative data on the functioning of national justice systems, while the annual Rule of Law Report presents a qualitative assessment of significant developments related to the rule of law in all 27 Member States. The Justice Scoreboard and the Rule of Law Report thus complement each other. The 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard has been further developed also to reflect the needs for additional comparative information as observed during the preparation of the 2022 Rule of Law Report.
The EU’s rule of law toolbox consists of a wide range of tools to carefully monitor, assess, and respond to the rule of law issues in Member States, among others infringement procedures, the European Semester, the EU Justice Scoreboard, the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), the procedure of Article 7 TEU, and the comprehensive Rule of Law Mechanism, which includes the annual Rule of Law Report.
What are the main innovations in the tenth edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard?
The 2022 edition of the Scoreboard contains 14 new or remodelled figures that extend our understanding of:
- the efficiency of administrative authorities in competition and electronic communication cases;
- specific arrangements for access to justice by vulnerable groups (for persons with disabilities and child-friendly proceedings);
- availability of online information about the judicial system;
- companies’ perception of the effectiveness of investment protection by the law and courts, and legal safeguards regarding decisions or inaction of administrative authorities;
- new indicators on potential security checks on judges, the options of higher/Supreme Courts to take decisions on the consistency of case-law on their own initiative, safeguards relating to the temporary employment of judges/prosecutors on political posts and the bodies with power to conduct criminal investigations;
- fine-tuned indicator on the possibility to challenge the decision not to prosecute.
What are the main findings of the 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard?
- Efficiency trends were positive in most civil, commercial and administrative cases, based on the available data from 2012 to 2020. However, in 2020, data reflects a negative impact on efficiency in some Member States, possibly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore of a temporary nature.
- Regarding proceedings before national competition authorities, 10 Member States reported that proceedings took less than 1,000 days. Some Member States which experience efficiency issues in the judicial review of competition cases are among the more efficient when it comes to proceedings before national competition authorities.
- In terms of available arrangements to support persons with disabilities in accessing justice under equal conditions, all Member States have at least some arrangements in place – mostly procedural accommodations or information available in accessible formats.
- Regarding access to justice and its impact on investor confidence, business environment and functioning of the single market, the 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard maps out certain aspects of judicial control over acts and omissions of public administrations, based on specific business scenarios. In almost all Member States, companies may receive financial compensation for damage caused by administrative decisions or by administrative inaction, and courts may suspend the enforcement of administrative decisions upon request from a citizen or business.
- Indicators remained the same for the digitalisation of justice, in order to ensure continuity and comparability. The 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard shows that Member States continue to improve the digitalisation of their justice systems. Although most Member States already use digital solutions in different contexts and to varying degrees, there is significant room for improvement
- The perception of judicial independence of the general public had improved in 17 Member States since 2016. However, since last year, the public perception of judicial independence has decreased in 14 Member States. In a few Member States, the level of perceived independence remains particularly low.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the justice systems?
The 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard is the first edition where we could truly observe the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They could be the reason for certain results in the areas of length of judicial proceedings, number of cases and clearance rate. Nevertheless, these results should be of a temporary nature. We will continue monitoring and assessing the short-term and long-term effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on justice systems.
How can effective justice systems have an impact on the economy?
Effective justice systems which uphold the rule of law have a positive economic impact. Where judicial systems guarantee the enforcement of rights, creditors are more likely to lend, businesses are dissuaded from opportunistic behaviour, transaction costs are reduced and innovative businesses are more likely to invest.
The beneficial impact of well-functioning national justice systems for the economy is supported by a wide range of studies and academic literature, including from the European Central Bank, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the World Economic Forum and the World Bank.
The national recovery and resilience plans include justice reforms and investments in a number of Member States. The EU Justice Scoreboard will help monitor progress in implementing these reforms.
How does the 2022 EU Justice Scoreboard examine the effectiveness of justice?
The Scoreboard uses indicators that examine the three main features of an effective justice system: efficiency, quality and independence.
The indicators related to the efficiency of proceedings include: caseload, estimated length of judicial proceedings (disposition time), clearance rate (the ratio of the number of resolved cases over the number of incoming cases) and the number of pending cases. The Scoreboard also presents the average length of proceedings in specific fields where EU law is involved.
Easy access to justice, adequate resources, effective assessment tools and the use of information and communication technologies are key factors that contribute to the quality of justice systems. The Scoreboard uses various indicators to cover digitalisation, such as access to online information and to court judgments, digital-ready procedural rules, use of digital technology by courts and prosecution services, secure electronic tools for communication or online access to case files.
The Scoreboard examines the perception of judicial independence, both among the general public and in companies. It also presents information on national legal safeguards for certain situations where judicial independence could be at risk. In addition, the Scoreboard provides overviews of the organisation of national prosecution services.
What is the methodology of the EU Justice Scoreboard?
The Scoreboard uses various sources of information. Large parts of the quantitative data is provided by the Council of Europe’s European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), with which the Commission has concluded a contract to carry out a specific annual study. This data ranges from 2012 to 2020 and has been provided by Member States according to CEPEJ’s methodology. The study also provides detailed comments and country-specific factsheets which give more contextual information and should be taken together with the figures.
Other sources of data are the group of contact persons on national justice systems, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU, the Association of the Councils of State and Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions of the EU (ACA-Europe), the European Competition Network, the Communications Committee, the European Observatory on infringements of intellectual property rights, the Expert Group on Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, Eurostat, and the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN).
Why are some data missing?
Although data are still missing for certain Member States, the data gap continues to decrease. The remaining difficulties in gathering data are often due to insufficient statistical capacity or the fact that the national categories for which data is collected do not exactly correspond to the ones used for the Scoreboard. The Commission will continue to encourage Member States to reduce this data gap further.