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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: May 2021

Improving Access to Information in European Civil Justice: A Mission (Im)Possible?



Increased judicial cooperation in the European Union and the growing number of civil justice instruments have also increased the need for information. In the area of cross-border enforcement, multiple instruments are in place, while enforcement itself is still largely a matter of national law. Informed choices in cross-border enforcement – which is the title of the European project from which this chapter results – require that users of the different regulations on cross-border enforcement have access to information on the scope and use of these instruments. The European instruments on civil procedure, though directly binding and introducing autonomous procedures, are applied by national courts and interact with national procedures and rules.

Having proper information is all the more important, since all four instruments of this research project – the Regulations for a European Enforcement Order (EEO), a European Order for Payment Procedure (EOP), a European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP), and a European Account Preservation Order (EAPO) – are optional for the claimant. The EEO was established as an alternative to what was then the Brussels I Regulation, with the aim of simplifying the enforcement of uncontested claims. This instrument has become less important since the exequatur procedure has been abolished for all judgments under the Brussels Ibis Regulation (recast). The other three Regulations have introduced uniform European procedures for payment orders, small claims and account preservation orders, respectively. These are available for claimants on an optional basis and therefore operate alongside national procedures. It goes without saying that an informed choice is not possible without having the necessary information to decide which procedures are available and which one is most suitable in a particular case.

Access to information in the area of European civil justice, and more particularly cross-border enforcement, is complicated by a number of factors. These include the multitude of different EU instruments, having divergent but also partially overlapping scopes of application, the complex interaction with national law, the diverse user groups – including a variety of professionals and end-users – and the fact that we are currently dealing with 28 countries with different legal systems and 23 official languages in the EU. Over the past decade, access to information on EU instruments and national procedural law has been improved greatly by the establishment of the European e-Justice Portal. However, the above-mentioned factors remain an impediment, and improving access to information is key for access to justice and enforcement across borders.

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