Since its establishment in 1963, the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) is a standard-setting body, with a wide scope of competence in the field of public and private law.
The CDCJ, as a steering committee:
- reports directly to the Committee of Ministers;
- makes proposals of texts to the Committee of Ministers for their adoption ;
- makes proposals concerning the overall priorities in its fields of competence, future work and draft terms of reference.
With a view to achieving its mission, the CDCJ is assisted by its Bureau, consisting of seven CDCJ members who are responsible for handling its business between plenary meetings. The CDCJ meets in plenary session once a year, whilst its Bureau meets two or three times a year.
The governments of member states may designate one or more representatives who will, as members of the CDCJ, carry out the work of the Committee and co-ordinate at national level, all relevant elements of government policy. Such members are entitled to vote on matters arising within the CDCJ. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Union may send representatives. Representatives from non-member states of the Council of Europe or from intergovernmental or non-governmental international organisations may be admitted to the CDCJ as observers. Observers do not have the right to vote but they may, on subjects under discussion and with the permission of the Chair of the Committee, make oral or written statements that may be put to vote, if put forward by a committee member.
As the CDCJ meets only once a year in plenary session, it may deal with a wide range of matters during its annual meeting. This consequently requires prior detailed preparation by the Bureau. The Bureau can make proposals to the CDCJ on matters such as how a draft text could be dealt with at the plenary meeting. Such proposals can, among other things, be based on written consultation with CDCJ delegations and, where appropriate, include suggestions for amendments to the draft text. The Bureau can also advise which questions it considers of sufficient importance to warrant discussion in the plenary meeting and, consequently, be placed on the agenda, or which questions should be adopted without debate.
The CDCJ is, since 1963, responsible for the standard-setting activities of the Council of Europe in the field of public and private law. The achievements of the CDCJ are to be found, in particular, in the large number of binding or non-binding international legal instruments it has prepared for the Committee of Ministers (mainly treaties and recommendations).
The work of the CDCJ includes:
- the planning, supervision and organisation of the work, colloquies and conferences;
- the preparation and adoption of draft conventions, agreements, protocols or recommendations;
- the evaluation of these standard-setting activities;
- the adoption, for the Committee of Ministers, of opinions on legal matters coming within its competence;
- the adoption, for the Committee of Ministers, of proposals for the programme of activities of the CDCJ;
- the promotion and the facilitation of the functioning and implementation of the international instruments coming within its field of competence;
- the promotion and the facilitation of co-operation and understanding between member states;
- the preparation, in co-operation with the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) and the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), of Council of Europe Conferences of Ministers of Justice, and, as appropriate, the follow-up of any decision taken by the Committee of Ministers subsequent to Conferences;
- the contribution to standard-setting work in respect of the protection of personal data and the right to private life, in close association with other relevant Council of Europe bodies.
In the framework of its terms of reference for 2012-2013 and in line with the decisions it has taken at its plenary meeting in October 2011, the CDCJ will be in charge of carrying out the following work:
- family law and children’s rights: drawing up an instrument on standards of dispute resolution in the exercise of parental responsibilities, in particular concerning decisions on the relocation of children;
- nationality: undertake a feasibility study in the field of nationality law and families, including the promotion of acquisition of citizenship; identify lacunae in matters of nationality law (with reference to the conclusions of the 4th Council of Europe Conference on Nationality (Strasbourg, 17 December 2010);
- administrative law: finalise the revised version of the handbook “The administration and you”; undertake a feasibility study for a possible legal instrument on problems encountered in the service/enforcement of administrative law decisions/documents abroad;
- justice and rule of law: finalise the text of the draft Recommendation on the role of public prosecutors outside the criminal justice system; undertake feasibility studies on possible legal instruments in the following three areas: 1) the protection of public and private sector employees who make disclosures in the public interest (“whistleblowers”); 2) the privatisation and its impact on public and private law; 3) the challenges to the rule of law, with particular reference to the fields of civil and administrative law;
- data protection: contribute to standard-setting work in respect of the protection of personal data and the right to private life;
- updating existing standards: make, where appropriate and on the basis of the technical guidelines of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe, the necessary revisions to the recommendations indicated in Resolution No. 1 on a modern, transparent and efficient justice of the 30th Conference of Ministers of Justice and also on Recommendation No. R (86) 12 concerning measures to prevent and reduce the excessive workload in the courts;
- 30th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice (Istanbul, 24-26 November 2010): ensure follow-up to be given to Resolution No. 1 on a modern, transparent and efficient justice;
- 31st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice (Vienna, 19-21 September 2012): contribute to the preparation of the Conference.
In the field of implementation and monitoring of standards, particular attention will be paid to the promotion of the adopted instruments.