EU Justice Scoreboard in 2023: Areas for Improvement

Legal - November 25, 2023

The system of the European Union is funded on fundamental principles and on the values that involves the respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. All these values are cointained in the Article 2 of the well-known Treaty on European Union (shortly, TEU). The promotion of all these relevant values is also remembered in the Article 49 TEU, which declares that any member states must respect and promote the European values. Another relevant Article reported in the TEU is the Article 7, according to which all member States must respect common values, including the rule of law.

The respect of the law is fundamental in order to ensure that the European Union and its members live in peace and accordingly to a shared law.
In particular, Article 7 TEU provides a preventive mechanism, that allows the Eu Council to give the Member State a warning before a serious breach has actually materialised. It also provides a sanctioning mechanism, which allows the Council to suspend certain rights deriving from the application of the treaties to the Member State in question. 

It is therefore important to coordinate monitoring and analysing at the EU level. Precisely for this reason, the European authorities decided to put in place one of the most relevant tools in justice field. This tool is the EU Justice Scoreboard. 

The EU Justice Scoreboard was established in 2013, and it has since been the European Commission to monitor justice reforms in Member States. In addition to this, the Scoreboard is also one of the tools in the EU’s Rule of Law toolbox. 

The three main aspects on which the tool focuses on to evaluate the European justice system are the following ones: Efficiency, Quality and Independence. The combined analysis of these factors reveals whether the system is up to the appropriate European standards or not.

In order to evaluate the system’s goodness, each year the European Commission published the analysis based on data of the year in justice terms. 

Last 8th June 2023 the EU Commission published the 11° edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard. 

This year’s edition contains figures on sixteen new areas. These include, for example, how national authorities deal with corruption, the length of proceedings in corruption cases, and the specific ways to facilitate equal access to justice for the elderly, victims of gender-based violence and domestic violence, and the risk of discrimination in European society.

This edition also contains, for the first time, graphs that refer to topics not previously reported in the Scoreboard, such as the salaries of judges and prosecutors and the appointment of presidents and attorneys-general of the Supreme Court and the highest courts with constitutional competences.

In addition to all we said before, it is therefore important to underline that, following the previous editions, the Commission presented the data of two Eurobarometer surveys regarding the perception that citizens and companies have on the independence of the judiciary in the various member states. 

From what emerged from the analyses conducted, the independence of the judiciary unfortunately still remains a problem. Indeed, one of the Eurobarometer surveys conducted among citizens shows that, comparing last year’s data, the perception improved in 12 Member States and decreased or remained stable in 12 Member States. Business perception, according to another Eurobarometer survey, decreased in 13 Member States compared to last year.

As far as corruption is concerned, 12 Member States have resolved corruption cases within one year, while in the other five countries for which data is available, proceedings can take up to about four years. 

The topic of digitisation, which is a central topi in European policies, also concerns the judiciary, just like all other sectors. In this field, small improvements have been achieved. In particular, eight Member States have procedural rules that allow, in most cases, the use of remote communication and the admissibility of evidence only in digital form. On the other hand, in as many as 19 Member States, this is only possible in a limited number of situations. 

The results of this 2023 edition also show that most courts and prosecution offices in the Member States do not yet make full use of digital technology to the full potential allowed by their procedural rules.

Another key theme reported in the EU Justice Scoreboard concerns accessibility of justice. Unfortunately, there are several problems related to this issue, especially with regard to persons at risk of discrimination, the elderly, victims of gender-based violence and domestic violence.

In 17 member states adequate information on the rights of persons at risk of discrimination is provided and easy physical access to court buildings is ensured in 22 countries. Moreover, nine Member States have taken measures to make legal aid more accessible to older people. Concerning in particular victims of gender-based violence and domestic violence, all identified safeguards are in place in 12 Member States, including online access to specific information relevant for this group, special protection for victims and witnesses, support during court proceedings by non-governmental organisations or equality bodies, or specific training for judges. Despite this, almost a quarter of the member states do not offer online access to information on gender-based violence and victims’ rights. A problem that among other things is also a negative factor in the digitisation process of the European Union.

The results of the EU Justice Scoreboard 2023 are also important because there is a tangible proof that exists a strong correlation between effective justice systems and an economy serving the people in the Member States. And therefore, the existence of well-functioning and fully independent justice systems has a positive impact on investment decisions and the willingness of all actors to engage in investment projects.

All data and analyses contained in the EU Justice Scoreboard are relevant in the context of the European Semester and the annual Rule of Law cycle, as well as the fact that this tool is also a useful device to monitor the progress of national recovery and resilience plans. The results published in June 2023 will also help the European Commission to produce the Commission’s Rule of Law Report 2023.

Coming to an end, it is important to highlight the fact that from the data reported in the document that the Commission recently presented and that we analysed so far, it emerges a situation in which the justice of the European Union is still not up to the standards of independence, effectiveness and quality that not only the institutions, but also and above all the european citizens of the member states demand and are entitled to. The process for a justice that is truly European and able to meet the needs of the member states and all its citizens is still a long one. With this in mind, the EU has made more than € 300 million available for the further development of a European area of justice, which will also contribute to improving the effectiveness of national justice systems and to strengthening the rule of law, democracy and the protection of fundamental rights, including by guaranteeing citizens and businesses effective access to justice. The programme finances activities concerning the training of judges and other legal practitioners, mutual learning, judicial cooperation and awareness-raising.

We really hope that through a joint effort between training, investment and education, in addition to a cooperation between all judicial systems, we can achieve increasingly satisfactory results and we can finally realize the best justice system we dream of today.