THE EUROPEAN DAY OF CIVIL JUSTICE (EDCJ)
On 5 June 2003, the Ministers’ Deputies at their 842nd meeting, while agreeing to declare a European day of Civil Justice to be held during the last week of October of each year, instructed the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) to prepare a draft organisational Charter for the Day.
The present Organisational Charter of the EDCJ has been adopted by consensus by the CEPEJ at its 2nd plenary meeting (3-5 December 2003).
The Committee of Ministers approved this Charter during its 870th meeting (4 February 2004).
ORGANISATIONAL CHARTER OF THE EDCJ
1. As it is urgent to act together to bring justice closer to citizens, the European Day of Civil Justice will be celebrated during the last week of October of each year in all European States which choose to do so. For practical reasons, States will be able to choose to organise events within this framework, either during the week or during the weekend.
2. This project stems from the desire to facilitate access to justice for all, as expressed by the European Council at the Tampere meeting of 1999.
3. It is also a follow-up to the Recommendations of the European Ministers of Justice who, at their 23rd Conference in London (June 2000), invited the Committee of Ministers in particular to promote citizens’ awareness of their rights and to provide citizens with the information required for them to be able to exercise their rights confidently.
4. The idea of a European Day of Civil Justice was first launched during the European Conference «Towards a better access to justice for the citizen» held in Brussels in October 2002. This initiative was positively welcomed by all the States represented at the 1st meeting of the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters and at the 1st meeting of the European Commission for the efficiency of justice (CEPEJ).
5. On 5 June 2003, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe approved the holding of this Day. Following the communication by Commissioner Vitorino, dated 16 May 2003, the European Commission endorsed this initiative to be carried out jointly with the Council of Europe.
6. Civil law, including its cross-border aspects, is omnipresent in the life of all citizens - at work, or when they get married, have children, or buy goods and services.
7. On the European Day of Civil Justice, events should be organised all over Europe in order to bring justice closer to citizens and enable “justice users” to understand better how justice works and therefore improve, if necessary, their access to justice.
8. Indeed, it is generally recognised that European citizens are informed inadequately on their rights and even worse on how civil justice works. Moreover, civil law generally does not appear in the teaching programmes of schools.
9. The European Day of Civil Justice must have a symbolic aspect, as a day on which we take the time to get acquainted with a little known system which is nevertheless very important in the daily life of each of us.
10. The European Day of Civil Justice is an event intended to give European citizens the chance to understand their rights more clearly (for example family law, property law, succession law, contract law, patient law, etc…) and how their legal system really functions (for example access to justice, mediation, execution of judicial decisions, etc…). It aims to educate and inform the general public on their day-to-day rights, but could also be useful for legal professionals who could use this opportunity to meet the users of the justice system.
11. Each State and/or interested national or international bodies are free to participate or not in the European Day of Civil Justice. States and/or interested national or international bodies which choose to participate will define the initiatives they wish to take. This Day will be organised in a flexible and decentralised manner in order to take into account the wishes and the resources of each participant.
12. Each State or body will have to finance the events organised within the framework of this Day. Each year, the Council of Europe and the European Commission could be directly associated with one or the other specific event.
13. The Council of Europe and the European Commission will have the task of promoting initiatives and ensuring the coherence of the organised activities with the purposes of this Day.
14. In 2003, for instance, the open day at the Supreme Court of Hungary will be organised on 18 October and will be directly supported by the Council of Europe and the European Commission.
15. Moreover, for 2003, the European Commission will define and finance the publicity of the European Day of Civil Justice: graphics, posters, information on the Internet sites, press releases.
16. Amongst the many activities that could be organised within the framework of the European Day of Civil Justice, States and/or interested bodies could choose to organise events such as:
· Open days at civil courts or other relevant bodies including guided tours (as well as the judicial world, this will enable to discover the cultural and architectural heritage);
· Meetings between legal professionals – judges, lawyers, bailiffs, notaries (free advice, visits to schools, to associations) and individuals;
· Local conferences (in particular in order to explain the programmes concerning access to justice for those with limited means);
· Production of specific information material;
· Awareness initiatives for children and young people.
17. Law faculties could be associated to the organisation of these events.
18. The Portals and websites of the Council of Europe and the European Commission would include a heading on the European Day of Civil Justice (to be created) which would contain a list of activities being carried out within the framework of this Day. A form to inform the Council of Europe and the European Commission and to be filled in by States or bodies participating in the Day in 2003 appears in Appendix to this document. When necessary, this form duly completed should be sent to the Council of Europe or the European Commission before 15 September 2003.
19. Furthermore, appropriate media coverage by States of the European Day of Civil Justice could be helpful for the activities organised in the States. Decentralised offices of the Council of Europe and the European Commission could, if necessary, constitute a useful bridge between both institutions and States concerning the circulation of the information.
20. Ideally, the preparation by the Council of Europe of a short educational film for television would be very useful publicity.
21. 2003 marks the beginning of the organisation of the European Day of Civil Justice which is to be held each year. The 2003 European Day of Civil Justice was not necessarily be celebrated in all the States which would otherwise be interested, due to lack of time necessary to participate in this first year. In the future, as proposed by the CEPEJ and the European Commission, States or interested bodies may organise EDCJ events by emphasising a specific theme (for example family issues, access to justice, etc…).
22. In order to allow these States or bodies to be involved in this initiative under the best conditions possible, the Council of Europe and the European Commission propose to prepare and circulate at the end of each year a detailed evaluation report, containing, in particular, examples of good practice in this field (see in particular documents CEPEJ (2005) 5).
Council of Europe
Secretariat of the CEPEJ, Directorate General I – Human Rights and Rule of Law
For the attention of Ms Muriel DÉCOT, tel: +33 3 90 21 44 55, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
or Annette Sattel, Communication & Web, tél: + 33 3 88 41 39 04, e-mail: Annette.Sattel@coe.int
Council of Europe, F - 67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France
JUST.A.1 Civil justice policy
Directorate General Justice
+32-2 295 15 30