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Video conference of ministers of justice, 9 October 2020

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 9 oktober 2020.

Main results

Access to justice

Ministers gave their political support to draft conclusions presented by the Presidency on seizing opportunities for digitalisation in the field of access to justice. These conclusions will now need to be formally approved at an upcoming Council meeting.

The digitalisation of the judicial system is a huge opportunity, one we can use to our advantage in the current pandemic times. Digitalisation can help us ensure that all citizens have access to the independent courts at all times and make our procedures more efficient. For example, artificial intelligence can assist judges in their work and can promote the comparability and quality of decisions. AI systems must be transparent, comprehensive, secure, subject to review, and non-discriminatory. It is clear that Court decisions must not be completely automated. The final decision must always rest in the hands of a judge.

Christine Lambrecht, German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection

The draft conclusions encourage member states to make increased use of digital tools throughout judicial proceedings and call on the Commission to develop a comprehensive EU strategy on the digitalisation of justice by the end of 2020. They also note the need to promote digital skills in the justice sector, to allow judges, prosecutors, judicial staff and other justice practitioners to use digital tools effectively and with due respect for the rights and freedoms of those seeking justice.

Fundamental rights

Ministers held an exchange of views on combatting antisemitism and hate speech with the director of the EU agency for fundamental rights. The discussion focused on how to improve the criminal justice response to antisemitism.

In particular, ministers considered what more can be done to encourage victims, Jewish communities and other civil society organisations to report antisemitic incidents, and how to improve recording and collection of data on antisemitism, in order to promote the effective investigation of antisemitic offences.

The Presidency presented draft conclusions on the charter of fundamental rights in the context of artificial intelligence and digital change. Following the meeting, the Presidency will contact delegations with the aim of reaching an agreement.

These draft conclusions are designed to contribute to the debate on digital change in the EU and on how to ensure that these technological developments respect the fundamental rights of citizens. They focus on a fundamental-rights based approach to artificial intelligence and provide guidance on dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights and justice.

Combatting sexual abuse of children

Ministers discussed the judicial aspects of the recent EU strategy to combat sexual abuse of children, in particular as regards prevention and victim protection, following a presentation by the European Commission. They also expressed broad support for the Commission strategy.

The debate focused on two questions submitted by the Presidency: the role and possible obligations for internet companies to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse materials, and on how to better enable victims to ask and obtain the removal of the images.

e-evidence

Justice ministers were informed by the Presidency about the state of play regarding the e-evidence legislative proposals, which aim to speed up access to electronic evidence regardless of the location of the data. The Council agreed its negotiating position on the regulation in December 2018 and on the directive in March 2019.

We need the necessary instruments to ensure effective cross-border investigations. E-evidence will be a milestone in this regard. I call upon the European Parliament to state a position so that we can quickly proceed to the trilogue negotiations.

Christine Lambrecht, German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection

The European Commission also reported to ministers on ongoing international negotiations regarding e-evidence, which include negotiations for an EU-US agreement on cross-border access to e-evidence and negotiations in the Council of Europe on a second additional protocol to the Budapest Convention.

European Public Prosecutor's Office

Justice ministers were informed by the Commission and the European Chief Prosecutor about the state of play in the implementation of the EPPO regulation. Work is ongoing in several areas with the aim of having the EPPO fully established and operational by the end of 2020.

Other items

The Commission updated ministers on the judgement of the Court of Justice in case C-311/18 (the Schrems II case), which deals with transfers of personal data to the US.

Lithuania invited member states to consider if the EU could take action in any form to facilitate the transfer of sentenced prisoners, who are citizens in member states and serve imprisonment penalties in third countries, to their member state of origin.

Meeting information

  • Meeting n°VC-JHA-091020
  • Video conference
  • 9 October 2020

Preparatory documents


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