European Disputes Trends

Today is Europe Day! What better way to celebrate than to look at the dispute resolution trends in the recently published rule of law data across the European Union. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the historical ‘Schuman declaration‘ and the existence of the Treaty of Rome – which led to six decades of peace and integration in Europe.

At a time where media attention has primarily focused on the challenges faced in the region, there has at times been little focus on the many areas of progress within the European Union. However, following the recent French elections, there is fresh hope within the EU for dialogue and reconciliation among existing Member States, although there is still much work to be done.

Rule of law in the EU

One of the key functions of EU law is to enable a degree of harmonisation of laws across Member States, not only in substance but also in ensuring a certain standard. Last month the European Commission published the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard, giving a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of different justice systems in the EU. The report mainly focuses on litigious civil and commercial cases as well as administrative cases, and the identifies three main elements of an effective justice system – efficiency, quality and independence.

“The 5th edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard confirms that effective justice systems are essential to build trust in a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market” said Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

The Scoreboard also presents data on the safeguards in place in the different Member States to guarantee the judicial independence of judges. This reflects the strong importance of rule of law for the EU.

Jourová added: “I encourage Member States to ensure that any justice reform respects the rule of law and judicial independence. This is key for citizens and businesses to fully enjoy their rights.”

Alongside the annual comparative overview, the Scoreboard provides country-specific assessments carried out through bilateral dialogue with the national

authorities and stakeholders concerned. This assessment may lead to country-specific recommendations on the improvement of national justice systems.

ODR and ADR trends

The Scoreboard showed a number of significant developments in regards to alternative dispute resolution (ADR).In contrast to previous years, the voluntary use of ADR methods has been increasingly promoted and incentivised in all Member States (see Figure 30, below).

Figure 31 shows the number of complaints submitted through the European online dispute resolution (ODR) platform. This web-based multilingual tool is aimed at consumers and traders who have a contractual dispute over a product or service bought online and wish to find a solution outside of court, and has been available to the public since 15 February 2016. The platform allows parties to a dispute to submit their disputes online through the platform.

The high number