Select Committee on European Scrutiny Third Report



Draft Council Decision setting up a European judicial training network.

Legal base: Articles 31 and 34(2)(c) EU; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 10 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 10 November 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 12 December 2000
Department: Lord Chancellor's
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 December 2000
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


  7.1  A number of institutions involved in judicial training in the European Union have been meeting regularly since 1998 to co-ordinate their training in European law and in the handling of cross-border cases. The United Kingdom has been represented collectively by the Judicial Studies Board of England and Wales, Judicial Studies(Scotland) and the Judicial Studies Board of Northern Ireland.

  7.2  These judicial training colleges have made combined bids for funding under the GROTIUS, FALCONE and PHARE programmes. In Bordeaux in October 2000 they made an agreement establishing a European Judicial Training Network which is intended to serve as a framework for future joint projects.

The document

  7.3  The proposal by France is for a Council Decision establishing a European judicial training network composed of national schools and institutions of the Member States specifically responsible for training professional judges, and also prosecutors where the latter form part of the judiciary of the Member State in question. The purpose of the network is to foster consistency and efficiency in the training activities carried out by members of the judiciary of the Member States in the areas referred to in Article 31 of Title VI of the Treaty on European Union (judicial co-operation in criminal matters).

  7.4  The objectives of the network include developing knowledge of the legal and judicial systems of Member States and of European and international instruments in force within the European Union as well as a range of training objectives. They also include the development of training measures for members of the judiciary who are called upon to participate in activities in third countries to restore the rule of law, and helping to structure the judicial training arrangements of countries applying for membership of the European Union.

  7.5  The activities of the network are to include encouraging understanding of judicial co-operation mechanisms, improvements in language skills and dissemination of good practice. A Governing Board is to be established comprising representatives of the Member States, the Commission, the General Secretariat of the Council, and a representative of the Council of Europe. The Board will adopt the programme of activities of the network and will inform the Council and the European Parliament.

The Government's view

  7.6  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19 December 2000 the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department (Lord Bach of Lutterworth) indicates that the Government supports the aim of the proposal in principle and points out that the proposal would allow the network to be given a full-time Secretariat based in the Commission and a regular line of dedicated funding. He further states:

    "Without the Commission based Secretariat and funding, the Network would have to be administered in turn by each of the member institutions, with the costs being found from within their domestic budgets. Moreover, the Network itself would not be able to run programmes. Instead, individual institutions would have to apply for funding for projects and courses of training annually under the various Commission schemes (GROTIUS, PHARE etc). This makes long term planning impossible."

  7.7  The Government nevertheless has reservations about the present text. The Parliamentary Secretary explains that:

    "The Government's position is informed by the overriding importance of maintaining judicial independence, and in ensuring that judges should not have their priorities imposed by Governments..."

  7.8  The Government's other main concern is the question of the Treaty base. The agreement made in Bordeaux allows for co-operation in training of judges in civil, family and criminal law. However, the proposal is made under Article 34(2)(c) of the Treaty on European Union and therefore relates to judicial co-operation in criminal matters. The Parliamentary Secretary refers to two potential difficulties. The first is that:

    "...the focus of the activities of the Network might become inappropriately skewed towards enforcement of the criminal law if its founding instrument was not apt to cover judicial training in family and civil matters also. This ... might also prevent the Network from running training programmes on issues which cut across the entire range of judicial functions."

  7.9  The second difficulty is described by the Parliamentary Secretary as follows:

    " over judicial training in civil and family law at the European level would have to continue, and so the existing Bordeaux Convention would have to be kept in being for all purposes other than training in criminal matters. This would mean that the [European Judicial Training Network] would have to exist in two separate forms: one (relating to criminal law) funded and organised from within the Commission; and one (in relation to civil and family law) funded and organised by the institutions themselves."

  7.10  The Government concludes that for these reasons the Treaty base issue must be resolved before significant further progress is made on this proposal.


  7.11  We share the concerns expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary over the issue of the legal base for this proposal. The legal base chosen (Article 34(2) EU) does not seem an appropriate base for a proposal covering judicial co-operation extending also to civil matters. On the other hand, we understand the concern that judicial training carried out by the proposed network should not be 'skewed' in favour of the enforcement of the criminal law. Nevertheless, we agree with the Government's assessment that the issue of the legal base must be resolved before further significant progress is made.

  7.12  We ask the Parliamentary Secretary to keep the Committee informed of any resolution of the question of the legal base for this proposal, and to inform us if his concerns for judicial independence have been satisfactorily addressed.

  7.13  We note that the seventh recital to the proposal indicates that the network "will initially be confined to matters covered by Article 31 of the Treaty on European Union", and we ask for the views of the Parliamentary Secretary on the question of whether training members of the judiciary "who are called upon to participate in activities in third countries to restore the rule of law" is a matter which properly falls within the scope of Articles 31 and 34 of the EU Treaty.

  7.14  Although we agree with the Government in supporting the principle of this proposal, the issue of the legal base is an important one in an area of potential sensitivity, and we are therefore not yet content to clear the document.

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