Anna-Maja Henriksson, Finland's minister of justice

The EU is working to modernise cross-border exchanges between authorities through digitalisation and the use of IT to improve judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. To achieve this, the Council adopted today its negotiating position (general approach) on two amended regulations, one on the taking of evidence and a second on the service of documents.

The Council Presidency will now start negotiations with the European Parliament on the basis of these mandates.

Anna-Maja Henriksson, Finland’s minister of justice has said that every day more and more citizens live their lives and conduct their businesses right across the EU. Our agreement today should ensure they have access to an efficient and modern justice system whenever they may need it. By expanding the use of modern technology in this field, we can speed up procedures and facilitate citizens’ access to justice.”

The draft regulations provide for the modernisation of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters in the taking of evidence and service of documents. The draft amendments improve the efficiency and speed of cross-border judicial proceedings by taking advantage of digitalisation and the use of modern technology, and by these means advance access to justice and fair trial for the parties.

Changes in both regulations include the mandatory use of an electronic decentralised IT system, composed of interconnected national IT systems, for the transmission of documents and requests between member states. The draft regulations also task the Commission with the creation, maintenance and future development of a reference software which member states can choose to apply as their back end system, instead of a nationally-developed IT system.

Regarding the service of documents, under the draft new rules documents can be served electronically and directly on addressee with a known address in another member state, where his or her express consent is given in advance. The service can be performed through qualified electronic registered delivery services or, under additional conditions, by e-mail.

The draft new rules also promote the use of videoconferencing or other distance communication technology in the taking of evidence which implies hearing a witness, party or expert present in another member state.