Making people's lives easier: a Europe of law and justice
The creation of Eurojust in 2002 marked the stepping-up of the process of judicial cooperation agreed at the Tampere European Council in 1999. The European arrest warrant, also created in 2002 by a Council Framework Directive, constitutes an important step forward in the creation of tools for effective European cooperation. The Stockholm Programme develops these achievements further:
■ Furthering the implementation of mutual recognition
On criminal matters, a comprehensive system will replace all the instruments on obtaining evidence, covering as far as possible all types of evidence and containing deadlines for enforcement and limiting the grounds for refusal.
The Treaty of Lisbon also provides for the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's Office from Eurojust.
Mutual recognition will be extended.
In the field of judicial cooperation, the Council Decision of December 2008 on the strengthening of Eurojust offers an opportunity for the further development of Eurojust in the coming years, notably in relation to initiating investigations and resolving conflicts of competence. The Treaty of Lisbon also provides for the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's Office from Eurojust.
In civil matters the process of abolishing all intermediate measures (the exequatur) continues during the period covered by the Stockholm Programme. This process will go hand-in-hand with a series of guarantees relating to procedural law and, where appropriate, rules for determining the law applicable in important areas of individuals' lives, e.g. divorce. Mutual recognition is also being extended to essential fields, for example succession and wills, matrimonial property rights and the property consequences of the separation of couples, while taking into consideration the specific features of Member States' legal systems.
■ Strengthening mutual trust
The Union supports Member States' efforts to improve the efficiency of their judicial systems by encouraging exchanges of best practice and the development of innovative projects relating to the modernisation of justice. This involves in particular establishing and developing networks of senior officials and members of the judiciary.
■ Developing a core of common rules
As regards criminal law, particularly serious offences with a cross-border dimension will be subject to common definitions of criminal offences and common minimum levels of maximum sanctions. The priority is to combat terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, sexual exploitation of women and children, child pornography and cyber crime.
As regards civil law, the abolition of exequatur will be accompanied by a series of guarantees, particularly as regards judgments by default. These may be measures in respect of procedural law as well as of conflict-of-law rules (such as the serving of documents or the right to contest a decision to be recognised).
■ New technologies serving citizens and justice
The European e-Justice portal will serve as a single point of entry.
The European e-Justice portal will serve as a single point of entry allowing citizens and legal practitioners to access useful information and certain relevant functions. This will facilitate citizens' access to justice and will also support economic activity. The use of videoconferencing is encouraged, for example to spare victims the effort of sometimes difficult travel. In accordance with data protection rules, some national registers will be gradually interconnected (for example, insolvency registers). Some European and national cross-border procedures could be dealt with on-line (for example the European order for payment). The e-Justice system will be managed in a decentralised way, with a certain level of coordination at European level.
■ Increasing the Union's international presence
As regards civil law, the European Union, as a member of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, actively promotes ratification by as many States as possible. As regards criminal law, the Union actively promotes the widest possible accession of the partner countries to the most relevant Conventions and offers as much assistance as possible to other States with a view to their proper implementation.
The Union's Institutions ensure coherence between Union law and the international legal order. This calls for the greatest possible synergy with the Council of Europe's work in particular.