The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

The impact of the CEPEJ evaluation report in Austria

About the need to compare and the fear to be checked

Four years ago, a series of more than 100 questions were dumped on my table “somebody at the Council of Europe wants to keep you busy” was the rude comment, “No time now, have to go to the Ministry of Finance to participate in the budgetary negotiations” was my curt answer. A few hours later, the Minister of Finance played with the idea to cut our budget “to keep us as efficient as some of the judicial systems in the neighbouring countries”, serving some random figures with comments from friends. “But we are as efficient as our European colleagues, sometimes it is said even more…?” At the end, we did not negotiate as successfully as we had wanted to, because the story of the Minister’s friends combined with random figures seemed to be more important than some of our calculated hard facts.

More than 100 answers later, I had the idea that data concerning “budgetary input”, “inhabitants”, “number of judges” and “number of dealt cases” might be to some extent helpful in the future. Again a few months later, we got the colourful CEPEJ evaluation report full of useful data to make comparison even easier and to get an idea of what services are offered to the public within the family of the CoE.

“But do we want the Ministry of Finance to know of this report?” I was asked. The question was essential, because the figures we would be confronted with at the next budget negotiations were partially based on the CEPEJ report and we pointed out some of them as they were helpful indeed.

From now on, it was easy to give quick answers on former tricky questions such as “How many judges do the Germans have?”, “Is there a system of mediation in the UK?” and “What about the length of procedures in Nordic countries?” or “Should we merge some courts or do we serve the public with enough access-points to justice?”. The CEPEJ evaluation report became the standardized source of answers. “What has not been examined by the CEPEJ is not readily available within reasonable time” is the credo of daily judicial administration and politics.

Therefore, nobody is complaining as we are going into another round of more than 100 questions to answer.

By the way: “Do we have the new evaluation report of the CEPEJ?” was the first question I was asked by the new Head of the Minister’s cabinet. "It’s again to go into negotiations with the Minister of Finance…”

Georg Stawa
Public Prosecutor at the Austrian Ministry of Justice