Judicial Network

Author:Ulrika Beergrehn
Profession:Obtained a degree in law at Uppsala University in spring 1986
Pages:260-274
SUMMARY

Council Decision 2001/470/EC of 28 May 2007 establishing a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters

 
INDEX
CONTENT

    Ulrika Beergrehn obtained a degree in law at Uppsala University in spring 1986. She worked subsequently at various ordinary courts, first as a trainee judge (notarie) and then as an assistant judge.

    From 1998 to 2001, Ms Beergrehn was employed as a legal adviser in the Swedish Ministry of Justice, in the unit for family law and general prop- erty law, where she worked on various legislative matters. During the Swedish Presidency, Ms Beergrehn chaired the Council working party discussing the decision to establish a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters following a proposal from the European Commission.

    Since autumn 2001, Ms Beergrehn has been a Judge of Appeal at the Svea Court of Appeal.

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1. Introduction

Our private1 lives are governed by many different rules, for example concerning marriage, divorce, parental responsibility, contracts, purchase and hire. These rules are commonly known as private law, to differentiate them from what is known as public law, which could, simplifying slightly, be described as governing citizens' relationship to the State. Such provisions are a central element of the legal system of a country. Their content has usually developed over a long period. There is no uniform legal system for all countries or even for all Member States of the European Union, and the legal systems in different countries are not always compatible.

Nowadays we live in an internationalised world. People move freely across the globe, and it is no longer unusual to settle or work in a country other than the one where you are a citizen. The same applies to businesses, which are increasingly trading and doing business across national borders. Within the EU, exchanges of goods and services between Member States have likewise increased in recent years.

Increasingly often, questions are arising about what rules apply when people or companies from different countries have to make various types of agreement with one another. What rules apply when two people from different countries want to get married, and therefore to agree what should happen to their property? What is the position of a person who wants compensation for a crime of which he or she has been the victim during a holiday trip abroad? To which court should a company turn, to pursue a claim for payment for goods which have been delivered to a company in another country? Is a judgment delivered in one country enforceable in another?

Against this background, there is a great need for easily accessible information on, for example, the laws and legal system in different countries. Effective and flexible cooperation between the authorities in different countries is necessary and important. A European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters ('the Network') has therefore been established.

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2. Brief History

One of the EU's objectives is to maintain and develop an area of freedom, security and justice, where people can turn to the courts and authorities in any Member State as easily as in their own country.

The action plan established in 1998 by the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, and adopted by the Council the same year 2, on how best to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam on establishing an area of freedom, security and justice, acknowledged that reinforcement of judicial cooperation in civil matters was a fundamental stage in the creation of a European judicial area, which would bring tangible benefits for every Union citizen. One measure which, according to the action plan, should be considered, was to examine the possibility of extending the concept of the European Judicial Network in criminal matters, which already existed, to embrace civil proceedings. The conclusions of the extraordinary meeting of the European Council in Tampere the following year also recommended the establishment of an easily accessible information system to be maintained and updated by a network of competent national authorities.

Given all this, and in order to improve, simplify and expedite effective judicial cooperation between the Member States in civil and commercial matters, it was seen as necessary to establish a network cooperation structure at EU level in the area of civil and commercial matters. On 28 May 2001, a decision was therefore adopted establishing a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters 3.

3. Organisation of the Network

Each EU Member State has designated one or more contact points. These contact points are members of the Network, and could be described as making up its core. In some Member States, the task of being contact point has been entrusted to a particular person or authority, while in others the contact point is in the country's Ministry of Justice.

Those authorities in the Member States which have particular responsibility for cooperation on civil and commercial matters are also members of the Network. As examples of such authorities, one might mention the 'central authorities' set up in accordance with commitments under various international conventions, for example the 1965 Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, thePage 262 1970 Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.

The Member States are also able to appoint other authorities as members of the Network, if the Member State believes that their involvement in the Network may be of use.

4. Tasks of the Network

As seen from the above, the Network was formed with the aim of making matters easier for those who become involved in cross-border disputes, that is disputes with links to more than one country, by providing help with practical matters. The Network's task is therefore to facilitate judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters between Member States, and progressively to devise, establish and update an information system accessible to the public. To fulfil this task, the Network works by developing cooperation between its members. This, in turn, helps cooperation between relevant authorities in the Member States to function more effectively, which indirectly is helpful to citizens. The Network also works directly in relation to the public by providing information in information sheets on the Internet 4 regarding judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters within the EU, relevant instruments of Community and international law (e.g. various conventions), and the national legislation of the Member States, particularly as regards the right to have one's case tried by a court. All this information is available in all the official languages of the EU 5, which also makes it possible for the public to find out in their own language the position on a particular question in all EU Member States.

The Network does not change the conditions governing the mechanisms for cooperation which already existed in various areas when the decision to establish the Network was adopted. Thus, the Network has not replaced and does not compete with the EEJ-Net in the consumer field or the FIN-Net on financial services 6. The Network functions as a complement and support to them.

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5. Cooperation Within the Network

Cooperation within the Network is intended to bring about the smooth operation of procedures having a cross-border impact and the facilitation of requests for judicial cooperation between the Member States, in particular where no established form for such cooperation exists. The Network also works for the practical application of Community legislation and conventions in force between two or more Member States, and the facilitation of requests for judicial cooperation from one Member State to another. The Network is also responsible for ensuring that there is an effective system for information targeted directly at the public, and for producing such information.

The Network's tasks are primarily carried out by the contact points. In particular, they have to provide one another and other members of the Network with all the information necessary for effective judicial cooperation between the Member States. When requests for judicial cooperation are sent from one State to another, the contact points have to be involved as necessary and seek solutions to any difficulties which might arise, as well as contributing to the establishment of the most appropriate direct contacts. The contact points are also responsible for ensuring that the information which the Network provides for the public is produced and kept updated.

The Network is able to fulfil its tasks by regular meetings held both between the contact points and between the contact points and other members. Such meetings are the forum in which members can work out practical and desirable procedures for various situations, and also solve practical problems which may have arisen during their cooperation. They also provide members with the opportunity for a valuable exchange of information, and the chance to distribute information. At the meetings, guidelines are also established for the information to be produced for the public, and its form is decided upon. The meetings are the most important form of cooperation within the Network, but an internal communication system (Intranet) has also been established for the quick and effective exchange of information. Naturally, this facilitates and promotes cooperation between the members in the periods between the various meetings.

Besides working internally as members of the Network, the designated contact points are also available to the local judicial authorities in their respective Member States. In this context, the role of the contact points consists of producing or passing on whatever information is sought.

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6. An Internet-based Information System for the Public

As described above, one of the Network's main tasks is to supply information to the public. For this purpose, there is an Internet-based information system, essentially consisting of a Network website on the Internet. The Commission is responsible for the actual management of the information system, and the Network's website is to be found on the Commission's homepage at the following address: http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/ejn/.

The information system is being built up gradually, as it takes time to produce all the information which it is intended to make available there. The system, which is therefore reached from the Network's website, will contain information about the legislation which applies within the EU in relation to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. This information will be available from the Network's website either directly or through links to the websites of other organisations.

When the information system has been fully constructed, it will contain information on all the Community legislation applicable (i.e. in force) or which is under preparation in the field of civil and commercial matters. There will also be accounts of the national measures which each Member State has adopted to implement the Community instruments listed in its own country. As an example of such instruments, the following can be mentioned:

- Council Regulation (EC) No 1346/2000 of 29 May 2000 on insolvency proceedings 7;

- Council Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 of 29 May 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility for children of both spouses 8 (Brussels II Regulation);

- Council Regulation (EC) No 1348/2000 of 29 May 2000 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters 9;

- Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters 10 (Brussels I Regulation); and

- Council Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001 of 28 May 2001 on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters 11.

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Outside the EU, there is also much international cooperation between States in civil and commercial matters. There is cooperation in various international forums, for example the Council of Europe, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, Unidroit and the UN Commission on International Trade Law (Unci-tral). Usually, a convention text is drawn up, and individual States can then participate in inter-State cooperation in accordance with the convention by acceding to it and ratifying it. The Member States of the EU also participate in this sort of international cooperation. The Network's website contains information about international organisations and about conventions in the field of civil and commercial law. It also provides information about whether the EU Member States have acceded to the conventions, and what declarations or reservations 3 made in relation to them.

The Court of Justice of the European Communities and its Court of First Instance are responsible for ensuring that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Community Treaties 12. The Court of Justice considers whether the Member States are fulfilling their obligations under the Treaties. At the request of a national court, the Court of Justice also rules on the interpretation and validity of Community legislation. The Court of First Instance hears in the first instance cases brought by individuals or companies, and it is possible to appeal against its judgments on issues of law to the Court of Justice. The Network's website will provide access to judgments by the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance affecting judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters.

An important part of the information the Network provides for the public is found in the information sheets being drawn up by it. The aim of these information sheets is to explain how to go about getting a private legal dispute heard by a court. The information sheets are also to be available on the Network's website.

7. The Information Sheets

The information sheets drawn up by the Network cover questions relating to the possibility of having a dispute heard by a court in one of the EU's Member States. The information sheets contain practical information on how to go about bringing proceedings, and the possibility of obtaining legal aid (financial support from the State for one's own legal costs).

The information in the sheets is primarily intended for people without legal training. They are written in such a way that the information is easy to under-Page 266stand, and they provide a good overview of the situation in key areas of civil and commercial law. The sheets may contain more detailed information for persons involved in the law, such as lawyers.

The Council decision establishing the Network lists eight particular subject areas which the information sheets should cover 13. However, it is likely that in future information sheets will also be written on other subjects. For each subject area, an account is given of the situation in all the EU Member States and where appropriate in the Union. As mentioned above, the information is available in all the official languages of the EU 14. It is constantly being updated.

The subject areas which have already been decided on are as follows:

  1. Principles of the legal system and judicial organisation of the Member States: The EU Member States have different national legal systems and judicial organisations. 'Legal system' is a blanket term for the legal rules found in a country. Legal rules may consist of provisions (e.g. laws, regulations and administrative decrees), custom, case-law and official practice. There are various sorts of court, depending on the court's area of jurisdiction, for example family cases, claims, criminal and tax cases.

  2. Procedures for bringing cases to court, with particular reference to small claims: To which court a party should go to bring a case, and how then to proceed, depends partly on the country involved and partly on the sort of dispute.

  3. Conditions and procedures for obtaining legal aid, including descriptions of the tasks of non-governmental organisations active in this field: In all the EU Member States, it is considered that anyone should be able to turn to a court and that those who cannot afford it can receive legal aid. The conditions for obtaining legal aid, and what is covered by it, vary from country to country. Legal aid may mean that the State pays the costs of going to court wholly or in part, and that legal advice from a lawyer is provided for free or at low cost.

  4. National rules governing the service of documents: Service means that a person has demonstrably been informed about a particular document. It may happen in various ways, for example by the document being sent by post and the recipient confirming receipt in writing. In court proceedings, it is important that a party is informed about the documents handed in to the court by the opposing party. There are therefore rules for ensuring that documents really do reach the parties. There are provisions about service in both national and EU law.

  5. Rules and procedures for the enforcement of judgments given in other Member States: It stands to reason that a court judgment applies in the country ofPage 267 the court. However, it is not equally evident that the judgment also applies in other countries. Within the EU, there are special rules on the enforcement of foreign judgments and there may also be national provisions on the extent to which such judgments may be enforced in each country.

  6. Possibilities and procedures for obtaining interim relief measures, with particular reference to seizures of assets for the purposes of enforcement: An interim measure is a measure decided on by a court, pending the court's final judgment. The interim measure is intended to protect the rights which a party has turned to the court to have recognised. The measure does not affect the factual or legal position. The possibilities of and procedures for interim measures vary between EU Member States.

  7. Alternative dispute-settlement possibilities, with an indication of the national information and advice centres of the Community-wide network for the ex-trajudicial settlement of consumer disputes: In certain circumstances, parties to a dispute can use methods of solving their dispute other than going to court. For example, the parties can agree to allow an arbitration board to decide the dispute, or submit to a mediator's decision. The alternatives to court proceedings vary in the various Member States.

  8. Organisation and operation of the legal professions: Many different professional groups of legal staff work within the judicial system. There are judges, prosecutors and lawyers but also other staff trained in the law. The various legal professions may differ considerably between the EU Member States as regards areas of responsibility and tasks.

8. Final Thoughts

The Network has been fully operational since 1 December 2002. The members of the Network are now able to communicate with one another using their own intranet. This has produced short and rapid channels of communication within the Network. The meetings of members have proved worthwhile, enabling contacts to be made and problems solved informally. The Network's homepage already includes, to an impressive extent, easily accessible information about existing legal rules and about the authorities which are active in the area of civil and commercial law within the EU.

The ambition of the Member States, when negotiating the decision to establish the Network, was that the Network should be flexible, unbureaucratic and easily accessible. Experience to date shows clearly that this ambition has been fulfilled, and that through the Network the citizens of the EU have gained a valuable new source of information.

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II

(Acts whose publication is not obligatory)

Council

COUNCIL DECISION

of 28 May 2001

establishing a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters

(2001/470/EC)

The Council of the European Union

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Articles 61(c) and (d), 66 and 67(1) thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the Commission15,

Having regard to the opinion of the European Parliament16,

Having regard to the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee17,

Whereas:

(1) The European Union has set itself the objective of maintaining and developing the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice, in which the free movement of persons is assured.

(2) The gradual establishment of this area and the sound operation of the internal market entails the need to improve, simplify and expedite effective judicial cooperation between the Member States in civil and commercial matters.

(3) The action plan of the Council and the Commission on how best to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam on an area of freedom, security and justice 18 which was adopted by the Council on 3 December 1998 and approved by the European Council on 11 and 12 December 1998 acknowledges that reinforcement of judicial cooperation in civil matters represents a fundamental stage in the creation of a European judicial area which will bring tangible benefits for every European Union citizen.

(4) One of the measures provided for in paragraph 40 of the action plan is to examine the possibility of extending the concept of the European Judicial Network in criminal matters to embrace civil proceedings.

(5) The conclusions of the special European Council held at Tampere on 15 and 16 October 1999 recommend the establishment of an easily accessible information system, to be maintained and updated by a Network of competent national authorities.

(6) In order to improve, simplify and expedite effective judicial cooperation between the Member States in civil and commercial matters, it is necessary to establish at Community level a network cooperation structure - the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters.

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(7) This is a subject falling within the ambit of Articles 65 and 6 6 of the Treaty, and the measures are to be adopted in accordance with Article 67.

(8) To ensure the attainment of the objectives of the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters, the rules governing its establishment should be laid down in a mandatory instrument of Community law.

(9) The objectives of the proposed action, namely to improve effective judicial cooperation between the Member States and effective access to justice for persons engaging in cross-border litigation cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore by reason of the scale or effects of the action be better achieved at Community level, the Community may adopt measures in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty. In accordance with the principle of proportionality as set out in that Article, this Decision does not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve those objectives.

(10) The European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters established by this Decision seeks to facilitate judicial cooperation between the Member States in civil and commercial matters both in areas to which existing instruments apply and in those where no instrument is currently applicable.

(11) In certain specific areas, Community or international instruments relating to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters already provide for cooperation mechanisms. The European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters does not set out to replace these mechanisms, and it must operate in full compliance with them. This Decision will consequently be without prejudice to Community or international instruments relating to judicial cooperation in civil or commercial matters.

(12) The European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters should be established in stages on the basis of the closest cooperation between the Commission and the Member States. It should be able to take advantage of modern communication and information technologies.

(13) To attain its objectives, the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters needs to be supported by contact points designated by the Member States and to be sure of the participation of their authorities with specific responsibilities for judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. Contacts between them and periodic meetings are essential to the operation of the Network.

(14) It is essential that efforts to establish an area of freedom, security and justice produce tangible benefits for persons engaging in cross-border litigation. It is accordingly necessary for the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters to promote access to justice. To this end, using the information supplied and updated by the contact points, the Network should progressively establish an information system that is accessible to the public, both the general public and specialists.

(15) This Decision does not preclude the provision of other information than that which is provided for herein, within the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters and to the public. The enumeration in Title HI is accordingly not to be regarded as exhaustive.

(16) Processing of information and data should take place in compliance with Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and of the free movement of such data19 and Directive 97/66/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 December 1997 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the telecommunications sector20.

(17) To ensure that the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters remains an effective instrument, incorporates the best practice in judicial cooperation and internal operation and meets the public's expectations, provision should be made for periodic evaluations and for proposals for such changes as may be found necessary.

(18) The United Kingdom and Ireland, in accordance with Article 3 of the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Community, have given notice of their wish to take part in the adoption and application of this Decision.

(19) Denmark, in accordance with Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol on the position of Denmark, annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Community, is not participating in the adoption of this Decision and is therefore not bound by it nor subject to its application,

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Has Adopted this Decision
Title I Principles of the European Judicial Network in Civil and Commercial Matters
Article 1 Establishment
  1. A European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters ('the Network') is hereby established among the Member States.

  2. In this Decision, the term 'Member State' shall mean Member States with the exception of Denmark.

Article 2 Composition
  1. The Network shall be composed of:

    (a) contact points designated by the Member States, in accordance with paragraph 2;

    (b) central bodies and central authorities provided for in Community instruments, instruments of international law to which the Member States are parties or rules of domestic law in the area of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters;

    (c) the liaison magistrates to whom Joint Action 96/277/JAI of 22 April 1996 concerning a framework for the exchange of liaison magistrates to improve judicial cooperation between the Member States of the European Union 21 applies, where they have responsibilities in cooperation in civil and commercial matters;

    (d) any other appropriate judicial or administrative authority with responsibilities for judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters whose membership of the Network is considered to be useful by the Member State to which it belongs.

  2. Each Member State shall designate a contact point. Each Member State may, however, designate a limited number of other contact points if they consider this necessary on the basis of the existence of separate legal systems, the domestic distribution of jurisdiction, the tasks to be entrusted to the contact points or in order to associate judicial bodies that frequently deal with cross-border litigation directly with the activities of the contact points.

    Where a Member State designates several contact points, it shall ensure that appropriate coordination mechanisms apply between them.

  3. The Member States shall identify the authorities mentioned at points (b) and (c) of paragraph 1.

  4. The Member States shall designate the authorities mentioned at point (d) of paragraph 1.

  5. The Member States shall notify the Commission, in accordance with Article 20, of the names and full addresses of the authorities referred to in paragraph 1, specifying:

    (a) the communication facilities available to them;

    (b) their knowledge of languages; and

    (c) where appropriate, their specific functions in the Network.

Article 3 Tasks and Activities of the Network
  1. The Network shall be responsible for:

    (a) facilitating judicial cooperation between the Member States in civil and commercial matters, including devising, progressively establishing and updating an information system for the members of the Network;

    (b) devising, progressively establishing and updating an information system that is accessible to the public.

  2. Without prejudice to other Community or international instruments relating to judicial cooperation in civil or commercial matters, the Network shall develop its activities for the following purposes in particular:

    (a) the smooth operation of procedures having a cross-border impact and the facilitation of requests for judicial cooperation between the Member States, in particular where no Community or international instrument is applicable;

    (b) the effective and practical application of Community instruments or conventions in force between two or more Member States;

    (c) the establishment and maintenance of an information system for the public on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters in the European Union, relevant Community and international instruments and the domestic law of the Member States, with particular reference to access to justice.

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Article 4 Modus Operandi of the Network

The Network shall accomplish its tasks in particular by the following means:

  1. it shall facilitate appropriate contacts between the authorities of the Member States mentioned in Article 2(1) for the accomplishment of the tasks provided for by Article 3;

  2. it shall organise periodic meetings of the contact points and of the members of the Network in accordance with the rules laid down in Title II;

  3. it shall draw up and keep updated the information on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters and the legal systems of the Member States referred to in Title HI, in accordance with the rules laid down in that Title.

Article 5 Contact Points
  1. The contact points shall be at the disposal of the authorities referred to in Article 2(l)(b) to (d) for the accomplishment of the tasks provided for by Article 3.

    The contact points shall also be at the disposal of the local judicial authorities in their own Member State for the same purposes, in accordance with rules to be determined by each Member State.

  2. In particular, the contact points shall:

    (a) supply the other contact points, the authorities mentioned in Article 2(l)(b) to (d) and the local judicial authorities in their own Member State with all the information needed for sound judicial cooperation between the Member States in accordance with Article 3, in order to assist them in preparing operable requests for judicial cooperation and in establishing the most appropriate direct contacts;

    (b) seek solutions to difficulties arising on the occasion of a request for judicial cooperation, without prejudice to paragraph 4 of this Article and to Article 6;

    (c) facilitate coordination of the processing of requests for judicial cooperation in the relevant Member State, in particular where several requests from the judicial authorities in that Member State fall to be executed in another Member State;

    (d) collaborate in the organisation of, and participate in, the meetings referred to in Article 9;

    (e) assist with the preparation and updating of the information referred to in Title HI, and in particular with the information system for the public, in accordance with the rules laid down in that Title.

  3. Where a contact point receives a request for information from another member of the Network to which it is unable to respond, it shall forward it to the contact point or the member of the Network which is best able to respond to it. The contact point shall remain available for any such assistance as may be useful for subsequent contacts.

  4. In areas where Community or international instruments governing judicial cooperation already provide for the designation of authorities responsible for facilitating judicial cooperation, contact points shall address requesters to such authorities.

Article 6 Relevant Authorities for the Purposes of Community or International Instruments Relating to Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters
  1. The involvement of relevant authorities provided for by Community or international instruments relating to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters in the Network shall be without prejudice to the powers conferred on them by the instrument providing for their designation.

    Contacts within the Network shall be without prejudice to regular or occasional contacts between these authorities.

  2. In each Member State the authorities provided for by Community or international instruments relating to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters and the contact points of the Network shall engage in regular exchanges of views and contacts to ensure that their respective experience is disseminated as widely as possible.

  3. The contact points of the Network shall be at the disposal of the authorities provided for by Community or international instruments relating to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters and shall assist them in all practicable ways.

Article 7 Language Knowledge of the Contact Points

To facilitate the practical operation of the Network, each Member State shall ensure that the contact points have adequate knowledge of an official language of the institutions of the European Community other than their own, given that they need to be able to communicate with the contact points in other Member States.

Member States shall facilitate and encourage specialised language training for contact point staff and promote exchanges of staff between contact points in the Member States.

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Article 8 Communication Facilities

The contact points shall use the most appropriate technological facilities in order to reply as efficiently and as swiftly as possible to requests made to them.

Title II Meetings Within the Network
Article 9 Meetings of the Contact Points
  1. The contact points of the Network shall meet no less of ten than once each half year, in accordance with Article 12.

  2. Each Member State shall be represented at these meetings by one or more contact points, who may be accompanied by other members of the Network, but there shall be no more than four representatives per Member State.

  3. The first meeting of the contact points shall be held no later than 1 March 2003 without prejudice to the possibility of prior preparatory meetings.

Article 10 Purpose of Periodic Meetings of Contact Points
  1. The purpose of the periodic meetings of contact points shall be to:

    (a) enable the contact points to get to know each other and exchange experience, in particular as regards the operation of the Network;

    (b) provide a platform for discussion of practical and legal problems encountered by the Member States in the course of judicial cooperation, with particular reference to the application of measures adopted by the European Community;

    (c) identify best practices in judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters and ensure that relevant information is disseminated within the Network;

    (d) exchange data and views, in particular on the structure, organisation and content of and access to the available information mentioned in Title HI;

    (e) draw up guidelines for progressively establishing the practical information sheets provided for by Article 15, in particular as regards the subject matter to be covered and the form of such information sheets;

    (f) identify specific initiatives other than those referred to in Title HI which pursue comparable objectives.

  2. The Member States shall ensure that experience in the operation of specific cooperation mechanisms provided for by Community or international instruments is shared at meetings of the contact points.

Article 11 Meetings of Members of the Network
  1. Meetings open to all members of the Network shall be held to enable them to get to know each other and exchange experience, to provide a platform for discussion of practical and legal problems met and to deal with specific questions.

    Meetings can also be held on specific issues.

  2. Meetings shall be convened, where appropriate, in accordance with Article 12.

  3. The Commission, in close cooperation with the Presidency of the Council and with the Member States, shall fix for each meeting the maximum number of participants.

Article 12 Organisation and Proceedings of Meetings of the Network
  1. The Commission, in close cooperation with the Presidency of the Council and with the Member States, shall convene the meetings provided for by Articles 9 and 11. It shall chair them and provide secretarial services.

  2. Before each meeting the Commission shall prepare the draft agenda in agreement with the Presidency of the Council and in consultation with the Member States via their respective contact points.

  3. The contact points shall be notified of the agenda prior to the meeting. They may ask for changes to be made or for additional items to be entered.

  4. After each meeting the Commission shall prepare a record, which shall be notified to the contact points.

  5. Meetings of the contact points and of members of the Network may take place in any Member State.

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Title III Information Available Within the Network, and Information System for the Public
Article 13 Information Disseminated Within the Network
  1. The information disseminated within the network shall include:

    (a) the information referred to in Article 2(5);

    (b) any further information deemed useful by the contact points for the proper functioning of the Network.

  2. For the purpose of paragraph 1, the Commission shall progressively establish a secure limited-access electronic information exchange-system in consultation with the contact points.

Article 14 Information System for the Public
  1. An Internet-based information system for the public, including the dedicated website for the Network, shall be progressively established in accordance with Articles 17 and 18.

  2. The information system shall comprise the following elements:

    (a) Community instruments in force or in preparation relating to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters;

    (b) national measures for the domestic implementation of the instruments in force referred to in point (a);

    (c) international instruments in force relating to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters to which the Member States are parties, and declarations and reservations made in connection with such instruments;

    (d) the relevant elements of Community case-law in the area of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters;

    (e) the information sheets provided for by Article 15.

  3. For the purposes of access to the information mentioned in paragraph 2(a) to (d), the Network should, where appropriate, in its site, make use of links to other sites where the original information is to be found.

  4. The site dedicated to the Network shall likewise facilitate access to comparable public information initiatives in related matters and to sites containing information relating to the legal systems of the Member States.

Article 15 Information Sheets
  1. The information sheets shall be devoted by way of priority to questions relating to access to justice in the Member States and shall include information on the procedures for bringing cases in the courts and for obtaining legal aid, without prejudice to other Community initiatives, to which the Network shall have the fullest regard.

  2. Information sheets shall be of a practical and concise nature. They shall be written in easily comprehensible language and contain practical information for the public. They shall progressively be produced on at least the following subjects:

    (a) principles of the legal system and judicial organisation of the Member States;

    (b) procedures for bringing cases to court, with particular reference to small claims, and subsequent court procedures, including appeal possibilities and procedures;

    (c) conditions and procedures for obtaining legal aid, including descriptions of the tasks of non-governmental organisations active in this field, account being taken of work already done in the Dialogue with Citizens;

    (d) national rules governing the service of documents;

    (e) rules and procedures for the enforcement of judgments given in other Member States;

    (f) possibilities and procedures for obtaining interim relief measures, with particular reference to seizures of assets for the purposes of enforcement;

    (g) alternative dispute-settlement possibilities, with an indication of the national information and advice centres of the Community-wide Network for the Extra-judicial Settlement of Consumer Disputes;

    (h) organisation and operation of the legal professions.

  3. The information sheets shall, where appropriate, include elements of the relevant case-law of the Member States.

  4. The information sheets may provide more detailed information for the specialists.

Article 16 Updating of Information

All information distributed within the Network and to the public under Articles 13 to 15 shall be updated regularly.

Page 274

Article 17 Role of the Commission in the Public Information System

The Commission shall:

  1. be responsible for managing the information system for the public;

  2. construct, in consultation with the contact points, a dedicated website for the Network on its Internet site;

  3. provide information on relevant aspects of Community law and procedures, including Community case-law, in accordance with Article 14;

  4. (a) ensure that the format of the information sheets is consistent and that they include all information considered necessary by the Network;

(b) thereafter arrange for them to be translated into the other official languages of the Institutions of the Community, and install them on the site dedicated to the Network.

Article 18 Role of Contact Points in the Public Information System

Contact points shall ensure that

  1. the appropriate information needed to create and operate the information system is supplied to the Commission;

  2. the information installed in the system is accurate;

  3. the Commission is notified forthwith of any updates as soon as an item of information requires changing;

  4. the information sheets relating to their respective Member States are progressively established, according to the guidelines referred to in Article 10(1)(e);

  5. the broadest possible dissemination of the information sheets installed on the site dedicated to the Network is arranged in their Member State.

Title IV Final Provisions
Article 19 Review
  1. No later than 1 December 2005, and at least every five years thereafter, the Commission shall present to the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee a report on the application of this Decision on the basis of information supplied by the contact points. The report shall be accompanied if need be by proposals for adaptations.

  2. The report shall consider, among other relevant matters, the question of possible direct public access to the contact points of the Network, access to and involvement of the legal professions in its activities, and synergy with the Community-wide Network for the Extra-judicial Settlement of Consumer Disputes. It shall also consider the relationship between the contact points of the Network and the competent authorities provided for in Community or international instruments relating to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters.

Article 20 Establishment of the Basic Components of the Network

No later than 1 June 2002, the Member States shall notify the Commission of the information required by Article 2(5).

Article 21 Date of Application

This Decision shall apply from 1 December 2002, except for Articles 2 and 20 which shall apply from the date of notification of the Decision to the Member States to which it is addressed.

This Decision is addressed to the Member States in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community.

Done at Brussels, 28 May 2001.

For the Council

The President

T. Bosdtrm

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[1] Established logo for the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters.

[2] OJ C 19, 23.1.1999, p. 1.

[3] Council Decision 2001/470/ EC of 28 May 2001 establishing a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters (OJ L 174, 27.6.2001, p. 25). Denmark does not participate in EU cooperation in this area.

[4] http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/ejn/.

[5] Currently Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

[6] Regarding EEJ-Net and FIN- Net, see Commission Recommendation 98/257/EC on the principles applicable to the bodies responsible for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes (OJ L 115, 17.4.1998, p. 31).

[7] OJ L 160, 30.6.2000, p. 1.

[8] OJ L 160, 30.6.2000, p. 19.

[9] OJ L 160, 30.6.2000, p. 37.

[10] OJ L 12, 16.1.2001, p. 1.

[11] OJ L 174, 27.6.2001, p. 1.

[12] See Articles 220 to 245 of the Treaty of Rome as amended by the Amsterdam Treaty.

[13] Article 15(2) of Council Decision 2001/470/EC.

[14] See footnote 2 on page 264.

[15] OJ C 29 E, 30.1.2001, p. 281.

[16] Opinion delivered on 5 April 2001 (not yet published in the Official Journal).

[17] OJ C 139, 11.5.2001, p. 6.

[18] 0J C 19, 23.1.1999, p. 1.

[19] OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.

[20] OJ L 24, 30.1.1998, p. 1.

[21] OJ L 105, 27.4.1996, p. 1.