Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

26 Judicial training



COM(06) 356

Commission Communication on judicial training in the European Union

Legal base
Document originated29 June 2006
Deposited in Parliament10 July 2006
DepartmentConstitutional Affairs
Basis of considerationEM of 20 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (21877) HC 28-iii (2000-01), para 7 (17 January 2001), and (23617) HC 152-xl (2001-02), para 11 (30 October 2002)
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionCleared


26.1 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. These judicial training colleges[70] have made combined bids for funding under the GROTIUS, FALCONE and PHARE programmes, and in 2000 made an agreement establishing a European Judicial Training Network to serve as a framework for future joint projects.

26.2 Also in 2000, France submitted a proposal for the European judicial training network to be established by a Council Decision. The proposal was not adopted, one of the reasons being the difficulty of establishing an appropriate Treaty base for a network which would operate in the field of criminal as well as civil law. As the French proposal was made under Article 34(2)(c) EU, the Member States were not able to agree that the draft Council Decision should also apply to judicial co-operation in civil matters, this being a subject for the EC Treaty.

The Commission's communication

26.3 The communication from the Commission canvasses ways in which judicial training might be supported at EU level. The communication suggests that the inclusion by the Amsterdam Treaty of a reference to the objective of creating an "area of freedom, security and justice" means that "judicial training is a new task for the Union". It notes that there are wide variations in systems for judicial training in the Member States. In some Member States, judges and prosecutors are trained separately, whereas in others (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) a single institution is responsible for training both judges and prosecutors.

26.4 The communication acknowledges that "the European Union has no grounds for interfering in the organisation of national training systems", but it equally asserts that the time devoted to training must be sufficient to ensure high quality standards in the judicial system and to "allow a significant European element to be developed in the programmes".

26.5 The communication refers to the creation of the European Judicial Training Network as a valuable tool for developing judicial training and notes that the network has received operating grants from the EU budget in 2003 and 2005. The Commission proposes in its communication that from 2007 the European Judicial Training Network should be allocated an annual operating grant under the EU framework programme on fundamental rights and justice.

26.6 The Commission considers that the organisation of judicial training is primarily the responsibility of the Member States and that it is "up to them to incorporate the European dimension fully into their national activities". However, the communication also suggests that priority should be given to improving familiarity with EU and Community legal instruments, improving language skills and developing familiarity with the legal and judicial systems of the Member States. The communication also suggests that training must stress practical aspects, that methods allowing a broader dissemination of results than is achieved by lectures and seminars "must be developed" and that more training courses for trainers should be offered "in particular to encourage them to be more keenly aware of the European dimension of judicial action". It concludes that "the point of strengthening the European component of national training is to achieve a more widespread familiarity with Union mechanisms" and that "there is also a need to develop a more fully integrated type of training, conceived and implemented at European level".

26.7 In a section of the communication entitled "towards a European strategy of judicial training" the Commission indicates its wish to strengthen the European Judicial Training Network by providing financial support for the training of legal professions in EU and Community law under the 2007-13 framework programme on fundamental rights and justice, but "without ruling out the possibility of a specific legislative instrument". It proposes that the Network should become involved in devising "fully European" training schemes in conjunction with other relevant bodies and that prosecutors "must be allowed to take part in all the activities developed at European level and managed by the Network, subject to full respect for national traditions concerning the separation between judges and prosecutors".

The Government's view

26.8 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 20 July 2006 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) states that the Government broadly welcomes the communication, noting that funding programmes to support judicial exchanges and other initiatives are not new and have operated in a way which is broadly satisfactory. The Minister adds that the Commission's stated intention not to pursue a legislative approach to these matters appears to the Government to be proportionate.

26.9 The Minister makes this further general comment:

"The Government considers that the EU has a legitimate interest in promoting judicial co-operation, and recognises that enhanced language training and better understanding of Community law and national legal systems can make an appropriate contribution to that end. Judicial exchanges can also contribute, although there are practical considerations concerning participation linked to our relatively small number of full-time judges because of the extent to which our system employs lay magistrates. Moreover, there are some ambiguities, as applied to the UK system, as to precisely which judicial personnel will be covered. Further, in certain areas the communication envisages an approach which differs from that currently taken in England and Wales. For example, in cases where guidance is required, this is likely to be provided by way of a practice direction than by dissemination of training materials as envisaged … in the communication. Whilst the Government will want to ensure that access to funding is not denied to those judicial training models which do not fit neatly with the European model, there is no reason to suppose that is intended."

26.10 The Minister also states that the Government will approach these matters on the basis that judicial independence is "paramount" and will wish to look carefully at proposals concerning the participation of prosecutors in training schemes involving judges.


26.11 We welcome the recognition in the communication that the European Union has no grounds for interfering in the organisation of national judicial training schemes. However, and in apparent contradiction, the communication then proceeds to prescribe a number of detailed principles relating to the content and methods of judicial training schemes, for example, by requiring that they should contain a "significant European element". In the same vein, the communication also calls for "a more fully integrated type of training, conceived and implemented at European level".

26.12 We endorse the approach the Minister intends to take, and we welcome her emphasis on judicial independence. We note that the Government will wish to ensure that access to funding is not denied to those training models which do not fit neatly with those suggested in the Commission's communication.

26.13 In the light of the Minister's comments, we are content to clear the document.

70   The UK was represented by the Judicial Studies Board of England and Wales, Judicial Studies (Scotland) and the Judicial Studies Board of Northern Ireland. Back

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Prepared 26 October 2006