New EU Deal on Digitalisation of Access to Justice

In the EU, approximately 3.4 million civil and commercial court proceedings in 2018 had cross-border implications.

On 30 June 2020, EU Parliament and EU Council negotiators reached an agreement on two new pieces of legislation aimed at making access to justice faster, cheaper and more user-friendly for EU citizens and businesses, decreasing delays and undue costs for citizens.

The EU legislators have been negotiating two pieces of legislation respectively on:

(a) taking evidence ( providing a framework for cross-border judicial assistance between EU countries by facilitating the collection of evidence across borders); and

(b) service of documents (through a standardised transmission procedure for the service of documents between courts and other parties in different EU countries).

The two documents aim to make judicial cross-border cooperation between national courts more efficient through digitalisation in civil and commercial matters. Through a modernisation of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters, the legislation would replace the earlier international, more cumbersome system of the Hague Conventions between the member states.

Main elements of the agreement:

  • Courts will be able to exchange documents electronically: changes in both regulations establish a decentralised IT system that will allow for faster, more secure and effective exchange of documents between member states;
  • The decentralised IT system will be composed of national, interoperable IT systems, without involving any EU institutions;
  • Data protection: information will be kept strictly confidential and personal data and privacy will be protected when documents are transmitted and evidence is being taken; personal data which is deemed irrelevant for a specific case will be deleted immediately;
  • Increased use of distance communication: modern communication technologies, such as videoconferencing, that can lower costs and help evidence to be taken more quickly, will be used appropriately and with the consent of the person to be heard.

Next steps

The EU Parliament and EU Council will need to endorse the final version of the agreement before it is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The two regulations will enter into force 20 days following their publication.

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