In the framework of the annual visit of the European Semester on November 10, Ines Hartwig, the representative of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, met with Sandra Strence, member of the Judicial Council, and Dace Sulmane, advisor to the Judicial Council,in order to gain an insight into Latvia’s progress in strengthening the independence of the judiciary. Ines Hartwig found that in terms of the latest statistics of the EU Justice Scoreboard Latvia has achieved good performance characteristics, but special attention should be paid to independence issues.
The European Commission was interested in the future progression of the draft law "On Amendments to the Law „On Judicial Power”” submitted to the Legal Affairs Committee of the Saeima, as well as in the Report on Improvement of the Work of the Judicial Council published by the Commission for Legal Environment Improvement established by the President (24.05.2016) (hereinafter - the Report).
Sandra Strence, the member of the Judicial Council stressed the positive contribution of the President Raimonds Vejonis when initiating the development of the Report and expressing active position concerning the need to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. A separate topic of conversation was devoted to the historical background of the establishment and development process of the Judicial Council and as well as to the functional apportionment among the Ministry of Justice, Court Administration and the Judicial Council.
Adviser to the Judicial Councilintroduced the representative of the European Commission with this year’s studies presented to the Judicial Council in which data and comparable statistics of the Council of Europe, EU Justice Scoreboard, as well as ENCJ was extensively used. The importance of awareness and involvement of the members of theJudicial Council in discussion about the latest trends and current issues in strengthening the judicial independence in Europe was highlighted.
Likewise, the European Commission got acquainted with the information on the work on strategy of the Judicial Council, as well as with the survey results of members of the Judicial Council.
During the meeting, Ines Hartwig positively assessed the proposal supported by the Judicial Council to increase the capacity of the Judicial Council by establishing the Secretariat in 2017.
The representative of the European Commission was introduced with the progress of 2016 regarding the issue on increase of salaries of court employees. At the same time it was reported on the lasting suspension of the reform on the remuneration of judges as well as of the growing imbalance between remuneration of the lawyers working in the public administration and judges. Ines Hartwig was informed about the decision of October 17 of the Judicial Council concerning submission of an application to the Constitutional Court regarding the issue of judges' remuneration system.
The results of the visit of the European Semester (within the framework of which thematic meetings of the European Commission’s representatives with ministries and managing authorities take place) are used to evaluate the progress of Latvia in implementing the European Union's 2016 country-specific recommendations (CSRs), as well as to prepare the European Commission’s report on Latvia in 2017.
Information prepared by
Dace Sulmane, Adviser to the Judicial Council