National justice systems
At EU level, the effectiveness of national justice systems is addressed through a number of processes.
The on-going economic and financial crisis in the EU has been a catalyst for profound changes. Its impact can be seen in the restructuring of national economies to prepare the ground for growth and competitiveness.
In this reform process, the national justice systems play a key role in restoring confidence and the return to growth. Enhancing the quality, independence and efficiency of Member States' justice systems is a prerequisite for an investment and business friendly environment and an effective justice system.
For these reasons, improving the effectiveness of judicial systems is a priority in the European Semester, the EU annual cycle of economic policy coordination. The 2015 European Semester shows that certain Member States are still facing particular challenges in this area. In particular, Country Specific Recommendations to Croatia, Italy, Latvia and Slovenia to render their justice systems more effective. It also closely monitors the efforts in this area in other Member States such as Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia.
Annual Growth Survey
The 2016 Annual Growth Survey has underlined that it is necessary to ensure swift proceedings, address the court backlogs, increase safeguards for judicial independence and improve the quality of the judiciary, including through better use of ICT in courts and use of quality standards.
Economic Adjustment Programmes
Since 2011, national judicial reforms have become an integral part of the structural components in Member States subject to the Economic Adjustment Programmes. Currently, the Commission is monitoring justice reforms in the framework of the Economic adjustment programs for Greece and for Cyprus.
Cooperation and Verification Mechanism
To smooth the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the EU and at the same time safeguard the workings of its policies and institutions, the EU decided to establish a special cooperation and verification mechanism to help these countries address outstanding shortcomings. In December 2006, the Commission set criteria ("benchmarks") for assessing progress made on these issues. Progress in the field of judicial reform is among these benchmarks. Since 2007, the European Commission has been assessing progress made on this and other selected fields. It reports on a regular basis.
Structural Funds Supporting Justice Reforms
The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) provide support to Member States’ efforts to improve the functioning of their justice systems. At the start of the new programming period 2014-2020, the Commission engaged in an intensive dialogue with Member States on establishing the strategic funding priorities of the ESI Funds in order to encourage a close link between policy and funding. Based on the draft partnership agreements, the total budget allocated to investments in institu- tional capacity of public administration amounts to almost 5 billion euros for the next programming period. Justice is also a priority in the Economic Adjustment Programmes for Greece and Cyprus which will use ESI Funds in this area. The country-specific-recommendations, the country specific assessment and the data provided in the Scoreboard are key elements for Member States when setting out their funding priorities.
European e-Justice Portal
Since 2010, the European e-Justice Portal provides a wealth of information and links on laws and practices in all EU countries. The resources range from information on legal aid, judicial training, European small claims and videoconferencing to links to legal databases, online insolvency and land registers. It also includes user-friendly forms for various judicial proceedings, such as the European order for payment.