The European Semester has highlighted that effective justice systems are crucial to attracting business and enabling economic growth.
Digital technologies have great potential to improve the efficiency of and access to justice. Since 2008, the European Commission and the Council of the EU have been working closely together towards establishing a number of cross-border digital initiatives in the area of justice.
A first result of the political commitment to making access to national and European e-Justice easier and more accessible was the adoption of the first Multiannual e-Justice Action Plan 2009-2013. This first instrument identified a number of priority actions for joint work. Following its completion, a subsequent e-Justice Strategy and Action Plan were adopted for the 2014-2018 period. These ended in 2018, and have in turn been superseded by the 2019-2023 e-Justice Strategy and Action Plan.
One of the most tangible results in the direction of digitalisation of justice so far is the European e-Justice Portal. It is a one-stop-shop for all justice matters and contains valuable information on a wide variety of topics, as well as a number of online tools.
The EU Justice Scoreboard aims to support Member States in their efforts to achieve justice that is more effective. In this context, it presents comparative data on various aspects of digitalisation of justice at national level.
The importance of and the political commitment to digitalisation of justice were confirmed in the mission letter to Commissioner Reynders, where President von der Leyen tasks him to “look at how to make the most of new digital technologies to improve the efficiency and functioning of the EU’s justice systems”.
Nevertheless, the COVID-19 crisis posed severe challenges in front of the normal functioning of the justice systems. It confirmed that digital technologies are essential to ensure uninterrupted and timely access to justice for citizens and businesses, thus helping to build resilient national systems.
The Joint Roadmap for Recovery, approved by the European Council on 23 April 2020, recognises digital transformation, along with the green transition, as having a central and priority role in relaunching and modernising the EU economy.
The Communication of 27 May 2020 on “Europe's moment: Repair and Prepare for the Next Generation” reiterates that the digitisation of justice systems can improve access to justice and the operation of the business environment.
In order to reply to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission presented a Communication aiming at seizing the opportunities offered by digital technologies with the objective of improving the access to and the functioning of justice systems. The Commission has also carried out a mapping, which accompanies the Communication, to establish a clear baseline of the level of digitalisation of justice in the Member States of the EU.
One important element supporting the digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation is the Proposal for a Regulation on a computerised system for communication in cross-border civil and criminal proceedings (e-CODEX system), the e-CODEX Regulation.
More information is available here.