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Justice


The Austrian Presidency will work on the following measures in particular in order to implement the priorities:

The aim of the Hague programme and its action plan in the area of justice is above all to improve the common capability of the EU and its Member States to guarantee fundamental rights, minimum standards for procedural safeguards and access to justice, to fight against cross-border organised crime and to repress the threat of terrorism. In addition, steps will be taken to develop further the mutual recognition of court decisions and documents, both in civil and criminal matters, and to remove legal and judicial obstacles in litigation in civil matters with cross-border implications. Such recognition is an efficient means with which to protect and implement citizens’ rights beyond European borders. For that reason, Austrian justice policy expressly supports this approach.

Not all relevant legal instruments are cited below, but only those areas to which Austria gives special priority.

 

Civil law

Regulation on the introduction of a European order for payment procedure

The order for payment procedure, a simple procedure for speeding up the inexpensive enforcement of uncontested claims, has proved effective in Austria for many years now: the claimant fills out a form to lodge a complaint. The court then issues an order to pay. If the defendant does not raise any objections within four weeks against the order to pay issued by the court, the claimant is immediately granted an enforceable court decision. However, if the defendant disputes the claim, normal court proceedings follow.

Rome I

The Rome Convention on the law applicable to contractual obligations in cross-border cases dates from 1980. As the Treaty of Amsterdam has made judicial cooperation in civil matters a matter of Community competence, the Convention is to be converted into a Community legal instrument (regulation). In doing so, provision will be made to ensure that courts throughout Europe apply the same substantive law to cross-border cases in which the parties have a contractual relationship.

Rome II

As for contractual obligations (Rome I), a legal instrument is also to be created for non-contractual obligations. The objective in this area, too, is to simplify application of the law in cases with cross-border implications in which the parties have not entered into a contractual relationship, such as claims resulting from road accidents. The plan is to make it easier to anticipate what law will be applied in individual cases and to ensure that each European court dealing with a case of this type passes judgment on the basis of the same legal system.

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Criminal law

Framework decision on the European enforcement order

Austria has introduced this draft framework decision together with Sweden and Finland. In accordance with the basic principle of mutual recognition, the framework decision provides for the fundamental obligation to continue to enforce a custodial sentence or a detention order, imposed by a court in one State, on the part of the country of which the sentenced person is a national, in which he has permanent and legal residence, or to which he maintains other close ties.

This option aims, in particular, to improve resocialisation measures for convicted persons, since they can be implemented more easily and effectively in the country whose language the convicted person understands and to which he has close family ties.

Decision on establishing a computerised system to exchange information on convictions

The aim is to link up the national criminal registers of the Member States to permit a permanent electronic exchange of information on foreign convictions. A fundamental obligation to record foreign convictions in the national criminal register is also to be established. This would simplify and speed up computerised information exchanges between the Member States.

Framework agreement on taking account of convictions handed down in Member States in the course of new criminal proceedings

Convictions handed down during previous proceedings in another Member State should have the same legal effect as domestic convictions. However, it is not planned to introduce an obligation to take them into account. The aim is to avoid situations where EU citizens are treated differently merely because they have been convicted in different countries.

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Date: 22.12.2005