Independent and accountable judiciaries are an essential component of high quality, effective and efficient justice systems, and a prerequisite for a well-functioning EU area of justice. Adequate funding of the judiciary is a key element in ensuring and safeguarding the independence of the judiciary and judges because it determines the conditions in which the courts and judges perform their functions. Funding of the judiciary is a wide issue including fund allocation, but also local and national management of these resources.
The ENCJ is fully aware of the financial and economic climate and the budgetary constraints within which governments operate. However, even in times of economic crisis, an appropriate level of funding must be made available to enable the judiciary to manage its functions properly. Access to justice and the right to fair proceedings are not properly guaranteed if a case cannot be considered within a reasonable time by a court that has appropriate funds and resources in order to perform efficiently. Funding of the judiciary is an important issue for all of society, and particularly the economy, and the implementation of cutbacks should not be done in a manner that undermines the independence of the judiciary, impedes access to justice or which supports ill-intentioned outside interventions.
The ENCJ previously considered the issue of funding of the judiciary in its 2006-2007 Report on Courts Funding and Accountability. One of the specific aims of this project is to update the 2007 report, particularly in the light of developments including the economic crisis and subsequent austerity measures and the notion of the economic value of a well-functioning justice system.
The 2015/2016 report concludes a.o. that:
- the creation of the budget should be systemically and practically free from inappropriate political interference, so that courts are financed on the basis of objective and transparent criteria;
- the Council for the Judiciary or equivalent body should be closely involved at all stages in the budgetary process, and courts must be resourced to a level which provides an effective and efficient justice system;
- budgetary priorities must be defined in collaboration with the relevant judiciary according to transparent criteria, and must not themselves dictate the court procedures to be followed.
Annex I contains an overview of international sources on the topic of the finances of the judiciary
Annex II contains the replies to the questionnaire per country
In 2006-2007 the ENCJ studied the various ways that the judiciary is funded in the EU. The report on Courts Funding and Accountability gives an broad overview of the systems in place in the Member States of the EU.