Newsletter 28/2013 - Guest Commentator

Thomas Meyer
Sector Fund Manager, Open Regional Fund for South East Europe – Legal Reform, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Judiciary and growth

Taking in mind that the SEE 2020 – strategy for growth – is reflecting the European Union (EU) strategy for growth for South East Europe (SEE), the governance for growth pillar is a specific characteristic of the South East European approach. Not only with regard to the Copenhagen Criteria further development of state institutions is a precondition for both European integration and positioning of South East Europe worldwide. Even in an early stage, it was common sense that a special focus has to be given to the reform of the judiciary. With regards to growth, a change of mind is needed among all stakeholders that judiciary is the state institution not only providing justice but also services for citizens and the business, in particular. The region needs a stable and reliable legal framework providing legal instruments to conduct business and institutions enabling their rights; as a result, the use of instruments can be realized in a reasonable, serious, foreseeable and affordable proceeding. This would increasingly attract local and regional and, last but not least, international business.

It is highly welcomed that, within the specific governance for growth pillar, judiciary is foreseen as a dimension for itself. This is reflected by the special focus given in the further Stabilisation and Association Process by the European Union to candidate and potential candidate countries.

Next to the national challenges, where regional cooperation can be used to boost results, judicial cooperation across borders in the region can activate the potential of regional business to an enormous extent. By this, it follows the experience of the European Union which introduced judicial cooperation within the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999 as one of the pillars of the European Community.

The region is already committed to this approach. Since judicial cooperation is mainly covered by regulations, which are not automatically part of the EU acquis, it is planned to enter into regional conventions, mirroring the European regulations with regards to cross-border enforcement of civil law executive titles. Using the instruments before gaining membership could be one way of developing an efficient mechanism, already proven to be functional within the European Union, for the region itself which could be used for effective implementation with respect to Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). Another instrument deriving from the EU which could increase cross-border access to justice would be the introduction of a South East European Judicial Atlas. With the membership to the EU and thereby also to the European Judicial Network, the content of such an atlas has to be provided anyhow. Thereby, it would not only simplify access to information on the legal systems, institutions in charge and templates to be used, which would have a positive impact on cross-border business, but also prepare for the membership itself.

This equally applies to the access to electronic registers in the region. Here, it would be possible to establish an instrument realized with the EU, e.g. with the company registration, and planned e.g. with land registers. Easy cross-border access and standardisation of data formats in line with European instruments could be used in the same double sense, serving the region now and, at the same time, preparing for future membership.

In general, the existing institutions, such as the High Judicial Councils, Chambers of Notaries and Associations of Enforcement Agents, could and should share experience gained in a peer to peer approach, next to the support and exchange of experience with EU member states.

With regards to the capacity building within higher education, key factors for increasing quality in the legal professions are scientific research and regional publications. However, the existing networks, such as South East European Law Schools Network (SEELS), need further support but can be used for proper implementing the legal and institutional reforms on the run and allow facilitating further integration of the Higher Educational System and the Scientific Community.

In order to address judicial reforms as a field for regional cooperation, to identify possible fields of regional cooperation and to facilitate gathering and exchange of information, Ministries of Justice, Parliaments and High Judicial Councils already acknowledged the need to create a related network that could additionally serve as a communication partner for setting up regional initiatives, programs and projects.

Dr. Thomas Meyer is Sector Fund Manager of the Open Regional Fund for South East Europe – Legal Reform. This regional approach, set up in 2007 by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), aims to strengthen the capacities of South East European countries through cooperation within the framework of the EU integration. As a flexible instrument, it initiates and promotes sustainable regional cooperation.


Thomas Meyer, Sector Fund Manager, Open Regional Fund for South East Europe-Legal Reform, GIZ (Photo: courtesy of Mr Meyer)

Thomas Meyer, Sector Fund Manager, Open Regional Fund for South East Europe-Legal Reform, GIZ (Photo: courtesy of Mr Meyer)