Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fortieth Report




Draft Council Decision setting up a European judicial training network.

Commission Staff Working Paper on a European judicial training network.

Legal base:(a) Articles 31 and 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity
(b) —
Document originated:(b) 31 May 2002
Deposited in Parliament: (b) 4 July 2002
Department:Lord Chancellor's Department
Basis of consideration: (b) EM of 19 July 2002
Previous Committee Report: (a) HC 28-iii (2000-01), paragraph 7 (17 January 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date fixed
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:(a) Not cleared
(b) Cleared


  11.1  In November 2000 France presented a proposal for a Council Decision which would provide the European Judicial Training Network with a more formal structure. The proposal was based on Articles 31 and 34(2)(c) EU and was limited in scope to criminal matters. The previous Committee considered the French initiative in January 2001 and decided not to clear it on the grounds that it shared the Government's concern about the adequacy of the proposed legal base for the measure. The Committee also raised a question concerning training by members of the judiciary who are called upon to participate in activities in third countries to restore the rule of law.

  11.2  No detailed negotiations on the original proposal have taken place within the Council so far but it was discussed by the judicial training colleges which are signatories to the existing Bordeaux Charter. They reached a common position in Brussels in November 2001. It was agreed, inter alia, that the Network should extend to both criminal and civil matters, that the establishment of the Network would need time and that members needed to continue working together on the drafting of a European Instrument that would be the best legal basis for the Network. Paragraph 43 of the conclusions of the Laeken European Council (2002) then called for a Network to encourage the training of magistrates to be set up swiftly, in order to help develop trust between those involved in judicial co-operation. This conclusion was discussed on 10 April by COREPER, which requested the Commission to produce a paper outlining the current state of play and the options for actions.

The Commission paper

  11.3  The Options Paper is the Commission's response. The paper identifies and discusses three main options for the Council to take the proposal forward:

  • Adoption of an Act of the Council to formalise by means of an EU legislative instrument the existence of a European Judicial Training Network;

  • Creation of a new Community Agency for this purpose; or

  • Continued use of and improved support for the existing Network created by the Charter signed in Bordeaux between the European Judicial Training Colleges.

  11.4  In June COREPER decided that further work should be undertaken on the basis of option 3. This option does not entail the adoption of any specific Council Act for the purpose of setting up a training network; rather it envisages continued co-operation using and improving the support for the existing training network under the Bordeaux Charter, which became operational in January 2001, with a general assembly, a steering committee and a secretariat. The training network has met regularly for the purpose of preparing and coordinating cooperation programmes and for exchanging information between its members. Since the Charter did not entail the creation of a legally constituted structure, the training network does not have its own budget, or any permanent staff. Financing is partly borne by the members of the training network and partly through grants for individual projects.

The Government's view

  11.5  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 19 July 2002 the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland) states that "the option to be preferred is for the existing training network to remain as it is now, as an independent body, but to develop so as to acquire a legal personality which would enable it to receive Commission funding for its programmes in its own right."

  11.6  The Minister also states that the French initiative remains on the table, "but in the light of the above developments it seems unlikely that it will be taken forward in its present form. The Government does not expect that the arrangements now envisaged should give rise to Treaty base concerns or call into question judicial independence, a particular concern raised by the Commons scrutiny committee in its Report."

  11.7  With regard to the question from the previous Committee concerning training for members of the judiciary who participate in activities in third countries to restore the rule of law, the Minister states that "the Government is alive to the sensitivity of this question and, should it arise in the new context, will seek to ensure that any such training is consistent with judicial independence."


  11.8  We agree with the Minister in supporting the third of the options outlined in the Commission Staff paper. We are therefore content to clear the Commission Staff paper.

  11.9  We thank the Minister for her response to the concerns expressed by the previous Committee in relation to the original French initiative and we are pleased to note that they are shared by the Minister. We ask the Minister to keep us informed of any moves that might revive the original initiative for a Council decision either in its original form or in amended form. We remain concerned about the implications of any legislative proposal in this area and for this reason will hold document (a) under scrutiny until it is withdrawn or replaced by an amended proposal.

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