An independent judiciary is a basic pillar of a society. The independence of judiciary systems in the EU has been built over decades, yet it can be destroyed overnight
Commissioner Věra Jourová
On 22 February 2019, Commissioner Věra Jourová participated in a Citizens' Dialogue in Zagreb, at the Representation premises. The Dialogue was organised as part of the international conference "EU Global Leadership in the Rule of Law", in cooperation with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence of the Faculty of Law.
There were some 120 participants, representatives fromthe academic community, lawyers, lawyers' associations, ombudsman, ministries, national administration, diplomatic community and civil society.
There was an interactive discussion with a roomful of citizens, which touched upon various issues related to the rule of law as well as the role of the Commission in that respect. There was a positive ambiance, and the participants' interest demonstrated that the rule of law is indeed a very relevant topic for Croatia and its EU membership.
Commissioner Věra Jourová started by emphasising the importance of the independence of the judiciary system as one of the basic pillars of a society. She said that the independence of the EU judiciary system was built over decades and yet it could be destroyed overnight.
The judiciary must be independent and protected from all political interferences, said the Commissioner.
It's not "the winner takes it all" after elections, the judiciary is not there for taking – this may be an old concept but still an equally important EU pillar. Anything other than that lowers citizens' trust in the judiciary, which on the other hand gives powers to the winner to influence the judiciary.
She continued by explaining what instruments the Commission has to implement the rule of law. She said that for some of the instruments nobody thought they would ever be used, such as Article 7.
She also explained that maybe sometimes it is not very clear what we mean by the rule of law. In that respect, the Commissioner announced that in June 2019 the Commission will publish a policy paper providing its clear understanding of the rule of law.
She also talked about different aspects of the link between judiciary and finance/economy. She explained why the Commission wants to introduce the conditionality principle in the use of EU funds – tax payers from main contributors are not happy to pay for a Member's State where there are infringements of the rule of law.
She added that the efficiency of judiciary can contribute to the country's economy and this is something that should be recognised.
The participants wanted to know more about instruments the Commission can use when communicating with a Member State in case of doubt on the infringement of the rule of law, and before infringement procedures are launched.
Commissioner Jourová explained that the Commission believes in dialogues as a primary instrument, even after the triggering of legal instruments. She emphasised that two years passed by before the Commission triggered Article 7 for Poland because the Commission believes in dialogue.
Representatives of lawyers associations emphasised that lawyers are those who have inside information on what is happening on the ground and that the Commission could benefit from it by strengthening its communication and cooperation with such associations.
Commissioner Jourová confirmed the importance of such cooperation and explained that there are two modes of communication: proactive and reactive, the latter being used for obtaining feedback from different associations.
The Commissioner ended by referencing the EU Justice Scoreboard and explaining that in the case of Croatia further improvements are needed with respect to the length of procedures and backlogs.