Dear colleagues, dear readers,

First of all, it is my duty and privilege to express gratitude to all the members of CCJE because they have expressed their confidence in my abilities to be first among the equals, especially after the excellent leadership of my predecessors.
The CCJE is part of the Council of Europe, and its activities and concerns aim at strengthening the judiciary in its member States to ensure mutual respect between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, and to give European citizens increased confidence in their justice system.
In the light of these two objectives the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe set up the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) in 2000.
The CCJE is a consultative body concerning independence, impartiality and competence of judges; it highlights the essential role of the judicial power in a democratic society.
Unfortunately, 2017 brought grey heavy clouds over the principles of independent, autonomous and impartial judiciary and recent examples in some European countries show us that such a trend, where the other two powers wish to take control over the judiciary, is not forgotten in the European context.
The steps which can be taken by the CCJE in that respect is to (alone and in cooperation with other Council of Europe’s bodies and observers) insist, without exception, on the principles enshrined in the Council of Europe’s documents and CCJE’s Opinions (20 until now).
Our main tools are our opinions, our reports on the challenges facing the member States in the judicial field, and the possibility to address specific problems concerning the status and/or the situation of judges in the member States.
The undisputable reputation which the CCJE has at this very moment has been built slowly, but methodically, with the great devotion of each of its member during these 17 years of existence. This is the assurance that the CCJE will continue in the same direction.
The CCJE as unique body, not only in the European context, but worldwide, because it is composed solely of judges who do not represent their states but themselves and endorse the principle that in democratic state, the legitimacy of the judicial power comes from its ability to adjudicate cases brought before courts independently, regardless what the expectations of the other two political powers are. This is the only way for the citizens to be protected from possible unlawful actions of the two other political powers.
That is why independence and impartiality of the judiciary are essential for the existence of a society governed by the rule of law.
Even though one could take an opinion that these words are empty and too general to make any difference, we, in the CCJE, believe that they are the beginning and the end of every evaluation where the level of democracy is under scrutiny.
In the last decade of the last century and the first decade of this century we could witness the growing role of judges and judiciary in the member States, as a consequence of democratic developments (especially in the so-called “new democracies”). We were perhaps too optimistic and thought that such processes would not go backward, but unfortunately, they are going back in some countries.
The legislative and executive powers seem sometimes not aware that frequent reforms can only destabilise the judiciaries, affect their effectiveness, bring social discontent and raise a public growing mistrust in the judicial power. This can be fatal for the proper functioning of any judiciary aimed at serving the citizens.
The CCJE will, I hope, stay on its stabile track, and with the trust and support from the Council of Europe’s institutions, will be able to fulfil its mission.

 

Duro Sessa
President of the CCJE (from 1st January 2018)
 

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