Draft Council Decision setting up a European judicial training network.
||Articles 31 and 34(2)(c) EU; qualified majority voting
||10 November 2000|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||10 November 2000|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||12 December 2000|
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 19 December 2000
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||No date set|
||Legally and politically important
||Not cleared; further information requested
7.1 A number of institutions involved in
judicial training in the European Union have been meeting regularly
since 1998 to co-ordinate their training in European law and in
the handling of cross-border cases. The United Kingdom has been
represented collectively by the Judicial Studies Board of England
and Wales, Judicial Studies(Scotland) and the Judicial Studies
Board of Northern Ireland.
7.2 These judicial training colleges have
made combined bids for funding under the GROTIUS, FALCONE and
PHARE programmes. In Bordeaux in October 2000 they made an agreement
establishing a European Judicial Training Network which is intended
to serve as a framework for future joint projects.
7.3 The proposal by France is for a Council
Decision establishing a European judicial training network composed
of national schools and institutions of the Member States specifically
responsible for training professional judges, and also prosecutors
where the latter form part of the judiciary of the Member State
in question. The purpose of the network is to foster consistency
and efficiency in the training activities carried out by members
of the judiciary of the Member States in the areas referred to
in Article 31 of Title VI of the Treaty on European Union (judicial
co-operation in criminal matters).
7.4 The objectives of the network include
developing knowledge of the legal and judicial systems of Member
States and of European and international instruments in force
within the European Union as well as a range of training objectives.
They also include the development of training measures for members
of the judiciary who are called upon to participate in activities
in third countries to restore the rule of law, and helping to
structure the judicial training arrangements of countries applying
for membership of the European Union.
7.5 The activities of the network are to
include encouraging understanding of judicial co-operation mechanisms,
improvements in language skills and dissemination of good practice.
A Governing Board is to be established comprising representatives
of the Member States, the Commission, the General Secretariat
of the Council, and a representative of the Council of Europe.
The Board will adopt the programme of activities of the network
and will inform the Council and the European Parliament.
The Government's view
7.6 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19
December 2000 the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's
Department (Lord Bach of Lutterworth) indicates that the Government
supports the aim of the proposal in principle and points out that
the proposal would allow the network to be given a full-time Secretariat
based in the Commission and a regular line of dedicated funding.
He further states:
"Without the Commission
based Secretariat and funding, the Network would have to be administered
in turn by each of the member institutions, with the costs being
found from within their domestic budgets. Moreover, the Network
itself would not be able to run programmes. Instead, individual
institutions would have to apply for funding for projects and
courses of training annually under the various Commission schemes
(GROTIUS, PHARE etc). This makes long term planning impossible."
7.7 The Government nevertheless has reservations
about the present text. The Parliamentary Secretary explains that:
"The Government's position
is informed by the overriding importance of maintaining judicial
independence, and in ensuring that judges should not have their
priorities imposed by Governments..."
7.8 The Government's other main concern
is the question of the Treaty base. The agreement made in Bordeaux
allows for co-operation in training of judges in civil, family
and criminal law. However, the proposal is made under Article
34(2)(c) of the Treaty on European Union and therefore relates
to judicial co-operation in criminal matters. The Parliamentary
Secretary refers to two potential difficulties. The first is that:
"...the focus of the
activities of the Network might become inappropriately skewed
towards enforcement of the criminal law if its founding instrument
was not apt to cover judicial training in family and civil matters
also. This ... might also prevent the Network from running training
programmes on issues which cut across the entire range of judicial
7.9 The second difficulty is described by
the Parliamentary Secretary as follows:
judicial training in civil and family law at the European level
would have to continue, and so the existing Bordeaux Convention
would have to be kept in being for all purposes other than training
in criminal matters. This would mean that the [European Judicial
Training Network] would have to exist in two separate forms: one
(relating to criminal law) funded and organised from within the
Commission; and one (in relation to civil and family law) funded
and organised by the institutions themselves."
7.10 The Government concludes that for these
reasons the Treaty base issue must be resolved before significant
further progress is made on this proposal.
7.11 We share the concerns expressed
by the Parliamentary Secretary over the issue of the legal base
for this proposal. The legal base chosen (Article 34(2) EU) does
not seem an appropriate base for a proposal covering judicial
co-operation extending also to civil matters. On the other hand,
we understand the concern that judicial training carried out by
the proposed network should not be 'skewed' in favour of the enforcement
of the criminal law. Nevertheless, we agree with the Government's
assessment that the issue of the legal base must be resolved before
further significant progress is made.
7.12 We ask the Parliamentary Secretary
to keep the Committee informed of any resolution of the question
of the legal base for this proposal, and to inform us if his concerns
for judicial independence have been satisfactorily addressed.
7.13 We note that the seventh recital
to the proposal indicates that the network "will initially
be confined to matters covered by Article 31 of the Treaty on
European Union", and we ask for the views of the Parliamentary
Secretary on the question of whether training members of the judiciary
"who are called upon to participate in activities in third
countries to restore the rule of law" is a matter which properly
falls within the scope of Articles 31 and 34 of the EU Treaty.
7.14 Although we agree with the Government
in supporting the principle of this proposal, the issue of the
legal base is an important one in an area of potential sensitivity,
and we are therefore not yet content to clear the document.