Today, most data exchanges in cross-border judicial cooperation still take place on paper. This is slower and less efficient than using electronic means. As the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined, traditional communication channels are also particularly vulnerable to crises. This new initiative aims to increase the efficiency and resilience of EU cross-border judicial cooperation through enhanced digitalisation in civil, commercial and criminal matters, as well as to improve access to justice for citizens, businesses and legal practitioners. As announced in its 2021 Work Programme, the Commission intends to propose new legislation to make the digital channel the default one for all EU cross-border judicial cooperation communication and data exchanges between the competent national authorities. This initiative is a follow-up to the Communication on digitalisation of justice in the European Union adopted by the Commission on 2 December 2020.
As announced in the Communication on digitalisation of justice in the EU, adopted by the Commission on 2 December 2020, and as planned in the CWP 2021, one of the initiatives, which the Commission intends to undertake this year addresses the need of digitalising the data exchanges taking place in the context of EU cross-border judicial cooperation.
This initiative aims to improve the efficiency and the resilience of cross-border judicial cooperation procedures, which are mainly taking place on paper today, by making the digital channel for communication between competent authorities in EU cross-border judicial cooperation procedures mandatory. It also aims to improve access to justice by ensuring the possibility for individuals, businesses and legal practitioners, in cases directly related to them, to communicate with judicial authorities digitally in cross-border procedures.
How to achieve this result?
The general objectives of the initiative would be achieved by:
Making the digital channel the default, mandatory one for all EU cross-border judicial cooperation communication and data exchanges between competent national authorities (subject to justified exceptions);
Ensuring that the EU Member States accept electronic communication in cross-border procedures involving individuals and businesses, without excluding the possibility for them to communicate on paper; develop an access point for launching these procedures via the European e-Justice Portal;
Ensuring that the documents are not refused or denied legal effect because of their electronic form;
Ensuring that electronic identities/signatures/seals can be used in the context of digital exchange of judicial documents, in line with the eIDAS Regulation (Regulation (EU) 910/2014);
Defining the responsibilities of different controllers and processors and describing high-level requirements for ensuring appropriate technical and organisational measures to guarantee secure data processing;
Ensuring that the different Member States’ IT systems are interoperable and can communicate with each other, including with the relevant JHA agencies and bodies, where envisaged by EU law.
The Roadmap for the initiative was published on 8 January 2021, and was opened for feedback until 5 February 2021.
A Public consultation, through which the European Commission seeks the views and opinions of stakeholders and all persons who could be impacted by the future initiative in order to take them into consideration when deciding on the way forward, has started on 16 February 2021 and will be open for feedback until 11 May 2021.