Opening of the 30th plenary meeting of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) and 15th anniversary of the CEPEJ

Remarks by Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni,

Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 27 June 2018

As delivered

It is a pleasure to be among such illustrious company for the fifteenth anniversary meeting of CEPEJ.

And I am particularly pleased that your current – and outstanding – President, Georg Stawa is joined today by two of his predecessors, Eberhard Desch and John Stacey, in addition to Andre Potocki, a former Vice-president and France’s current judge at the European Court of Human Rights.

Your collective presence here is an indication of your commitment and professionalism

Factors no doubt in the extraordinary success that CEPEJ has achieved since it was established by our Committee of Ministers back in 2002.

It was born out of recognition that our judiciaries must not only be impartial and independent.

Rather, they must also be efficient and of the highest quality if they are to build and maintain the public trust required to underpin the rule of law in a democratic society.

Over the past one and a half decades you have struck a balance between the Council of Europe’s role as “guardians of the temple”, protecting judicial independence on the one hand, and ensuring the development of a modern justice system that meets public expectations on the other.

In doing so, you have developed novel and specific methodologies and pragmatic tools that help national policy makers and justice professionals in courts –

And these have become key reference points in Europe, and beyond.

Over the years you have issued guidelines on 11 issues, published specific reports on 21 individual states, and completed 25 studies on judicial matters.

And this body of work has been studied in parliaments, used by policy makers to orient judicial reforms, and cited as an aide de camp by the European Court of Human Rights.

In short, your impact has been immense.

So I have no doubt that your new report on the evaluation of judicial systems – to be adopted today – will make a big impact too.

As with previous versions, it is set to become a major reference for policy reform across Europe and a sound tool for enhancing mutual knowledge of judicial systems among professionals.

The CEPEJ-STAT database is fed with information from this exercise, gathered from 45 member states, plus Israel and Morocco.

In turn, this has allowed the public and experts alike to have unprecedented access to interactive information.

So it is of little surprise that the European Commission has taken the opportunity to harness the methodology used, and the information generated, by the CEPEJ evaluation exercise for use in their own EU Justice Scoreboard.

And quite right too.

Because that co-operation strengthens the synergy between our two organisations and provides an even greater platform on which to share information and support the improvement of justice in Europe.

Today you will of course also be considering your role – our role – in the interaction between Artificial Intelligence and judicial systems.

This is a topic addressed by the Secretary General in his latest annual report on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe.

And it is another issue that fits perfectly with CEPEJ’s expertise.

After all, AI provides opportunities to improve the quality and efficiency of judicial systems across our member states:

Improving individuals’ access to justice –

Providing speedier, and alternative dispute resolution –

And the facilitation of easier access to case law.

Of course these opportunities must be balanced against the risks and concerns of both experts and the broader public.

Certainly, any AI-related innovations must be in accordance with the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights:

The right of access to a court; the right to a fair trial; the requirement for non-discrimination; the provision of data protection and privacy; and the availability of effective remedies.

Your mission and your expertise put you in pole position for the race to balance the fast-developing world of AI and the need to safeguard these fundamental rights to which each of us is entitled.

On this, I know that you are already hard at work.

And I look forward to the findings of your in-depth study on AI applications, including predictive justice – and to your Ethical Charter on the use of AI in judicial systems.

It will be the first tool of this kind at European level and set fundamental principles to guide public policy makers and the private sector alike.

I am sure that today’s study session will contribute to those ongoing efforts.

But more than that, your effort in this area, coupled with the dedication that is the hallmark of all your work, are evidence enough for this conclusion:

CEPEJ may have achieved a great deal over the last fifteen years.

But this is only the beginning.

On behalf of the Council of Europe, I thank you for your dedication, wish you a successful 30th plenary, and offer congratulations on your 15th anniversary.