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From the Brussels office

14 April 08

Update on ECJ fast track rulings; cross border debt recovery; agreement on ADR

Fast track preliminary rulings

The European Court of Justice is increasingly faced with references for preliminary rulings in the field of freedom, security and justice. These often call for an urgent response before the case can be dealt with at national level. The ordinary preliminary ruling procedure has been unable to meet this need for speed and accordingly a new urgent procedure has been introduced, with changes to the rules relating to written submissions and shorter periods for making submissions. Improvements to case management procedures will also allow the court to deal with urgent questions more efficiently.

Cross border debt recovery

The Commission has adopted a green paper on effective enforcement of judgments in the EU and the transparency of debtors’ assets. It concluded, following a consultation, that cross-border judgments could be more easily enforced if a common EU approach of acquiring information on a debtor’s financial position was employed. The green paper calls for greater transparency of debtors’ assets and promotes the rights of creditors to acquire details, without damaging principles of data protection and the debtors’ rights of privacy. Proposals include a guide to national enforcement laws, improved access to information registers, better exchange of information between enforcement bodies at EU level, and the creation of a “European Assets Declaration”.

ADR: Justice ministers strike deal

Progress on the much-anticipated proposal on cross-border mediation has finally been made as EU Justice Ministers recently reached agreement on the text. In order to promote mediation around Europe this proposal establishes a number of minimum common rules. These include provisions on suspension of limitation periods, confidentiality, and enforcement of settlement agreements, so as to set in place an effective ADR procedure for cross-border cases. The European Parliament will re-examine the proposal in the coming months. It is expected that final agreement will be reached in June