On 31 May 2018, the European Commission released a statement outlining its proposals to modernise and digitalise EU civil judicial cooperation for cross-border civil and commercial cases in the EU.

The proposals are to amend the current Regulation 1393/2007, which applies to all EU countries apart from Denmark (which has a parallel agreement with the European Community).

The proposals aspire for greater efficiency, accessibility and cost-effectiveness in the civil justice system. The following changes to the rules have been proposed:

1.    Courts will be obliged to exchange documents electronically rather than by post, which is a slow and expensive process. The Commission hopes to save up to 78 million euros in shifting to this digital form of exchange.

 2.    A uniform return slip for documents sent to people and companies by post will be introduced, to tackle the current situation where return slips vary, and information is often incorrectly completed.

 3.    The use of videoconferencing to hear witnesses based abroad will be promoted.

The Commission hopes the rules will strengthen the individual’s right of defense by clarifying when and how people can exercise their right of refusal. Digitalisation also aims to be more cost-efficient, improving access to justice.

Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality at the European Commission stated that “Every year, there are approximately 3.4 million cross-border civil and commercial court proceedings in the EU. More and more people are living, studying and working in other EU countries, and businesses are expanding across borders. This proposal will give them access to faster and more affordable cross-border justice.”

The full proposal can be found here.

The Commission has opened the proposal up for responses, until 31 August 2018. Feedback can be submitted here.