The European Commission's embryonic justice policy faces public scepticism across the continent, according to official figures published today at the start of a conference to discuss the creation of a 'European area of justice'.
A Eurobarometer survey shows a majority in favour of the proposition that judicial systems should be the exclusive responsibility of member states. Citizens in the 28 EU member states were asked: 'Do you agree or disagree that the functioning of a national judicial system is exclusively a matter for member states?'
Of the respondents, 22% strongly agreed and 44% tended to agree. Only 7% strongly disagreed while 18% tended to disagree; 9% replied don't know.
Of those who said the functioning of national judicial systems is a matter for the EU, respondents agreed that the EU should have a role because of the existence of cross-border cases and 'if there are serious problems in the functioning of a national judicial system'.
The research was published at the opening of the 'Assises de la Justice' forum in Brussels.
A majority of respondents, 53% tended trust their national justice system. Finland topped the league, with a trust figure of 85% while Slovenia came bottom, with 24%. The UK and Ireland came one-third of the way down the table, with 61% of respondents trusting the national justice system.
Questions on the perception of quality, independence and efficiency of national commercial courts gave high scores to the independence of courts and judges and fairness of judgments, while the cost and length of proceedings were regarded as 'fairly bad' or 'very bad'.
Speaking at the Brussels forum, the EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding (pictured) condemned member states for failing to support policies agreed at previous EU summits.
Mentioning David Cameron by name, she said: 'This is not a good way to make policies: first our heads of state and government agree on a solemn programme with 170 actions, and then their own ministers criticise the commission for implementing it.'
The UK government has ruled out joining the common European justice project, even to the extent of refusing to participate in the European Justice Scoreboard project to benchmark national performance.