European Commission proposes to modernise and digitalise EU civil judicial cooperation

The Commission is proposing to modernise and digitalise judicial cooperation for cross-border civil and commercial cases throughout the EU.  It aims to make access to civil justice cheaper, more efficient and more accessible to citizens and businesses.

The proposals will make it obligatory for courts to exchange documents electronically, and will promote the use of videoconferencing to hear witnesses based in another country.

The proposals will update the Regulations on Service of documents (1393/2007/EC) and on Taking of evidence (1206/2001/EC).

The updated rules will:

  • make it obligatory for courts to exchange documents electronically cross-border: currently, in a cross border case, both Member States’ justice systems involved submit the documents by post, which is slow and incurs costs. Shifting communications from paper-based channels to electronic could save approximately €30 to €78 million per year across the entire EU;
  • introduce a uniform return slip for documents sent to people and companies by post: currently, there are many problems with receiving documents cross-border as return slips vary and often are not correctly filled out. It is estimated that with this improvement more than €2.2 million could be saved every year;
  • promote the use of video-conferencing: to make it easier for people to be heard without requiring them to travel to another country. Videoconferencing will facilitate this and allow savings.  The cost of a cross-border hearing of a party or of a witness carried out via videoconferencing typically costs €100, against €400 and €800 for a physical hearing; and
  • strengthen procedural rights of the parties and access to justice: the rules will strengthen the rights of the defence. For instance, it will clarify when and how people can exercise the right of refusal.  Digitalising justice and using technologies cross-border will make justice more efficient and cheaper for people.

The rules provided for by the Service of Documents Regulation may also be relied upon in various out-of-court proceedings, for example, in succession cases before a notary, or in family law cases before a public authority.  To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.