Dear colleagues, dear readers,

At the outset of my term, I would like to mention the focus areas for the work of CCJE. The challenges to securing the rule of law in Europe remain demanding. Some member states do not comply with the requirements of Article 6 ECHR for an independent and impartial judiciary.

It is the task of the CCJE to further develop the already established European standard on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary by adopting annual opinions and thereby considering the current developments in the member states.  

In many member states, the Council for the Judiciary is responsible for defending the independence of the judiciary and individual judges. Not only the selection procedure of judges but also the measures of the legislative or executive branch relating to the judges’ tenure or their removal from the office can impair their independence. Therefore, the Council for the Judiciary plays a very important role in ensuring the rule of law. In its plenary meeting in November 2021 the CCJE has updated its standards with Opinion No. 24 on “Evaluation of the Councils for the Judiciary and their role in independent and impartial judicial systems“. With reference to its earlier opinion No. 10 (2010), the CCJE has reaffirmed and developed details on the tasks, composition, selection and security of tenure of members of a Council for the Judiciary. It will be crucial to ensure that Councils of the Judiciary continue to be independent and can exercise their work free from any political interference.

At the same time, it is important that the individual judge can practically do his or her job and does not have to fear the influence of other state powers. Therefore, the CCJE decided in its plenary meeting to focus on the “Freedom of expression of judges” in its Opinion No. 25 (2022).

Freedom of expression is an indispensable prerequisite for judges to exercise their office. It is an inherent component of judicial independence and impartiality.  Therefore, it must be granted to each judge, without the legislative and executive branches interfering with it. The exercise of the judicial office and thereby the judges’ independence is increasingly challenged in some member states of the Council of Europe. Therefore, a cornerstone of the democratic rule of law is at stake. Direct measures of the executive or legislative power affect the exercise of the office, for example when written or oral expressions of judges are targeted or sanctioned by the relevant state authorities. However, there must be limits for the judges’ freedom of expression to protect their judicial independence. The new opinion of the CCJE will focus on the scope and the limits of that freedom of expression.

With the new opinion, the CCJE will contribute further to the development of a European standard for judicial independence. All opinions shall serve as an orientation for the member states and might also guide the European Court of Human Rights in the application and interpretation of Article 6 ECHR.

In addition, the CCJE will continue to work together with the member states and judicial associations of various countries regarding the situation of the judiciary. We will resume to respond to requests of member states and judicial associations and report relevant threats to judicial independence. We will observe and examine if the member states adhere to the procedures for the appointment, promotion, evaluation, disciplinary proceedings and tenure. If necessary, the CCJE will provide statements on threats to the independence and impartiality of judges in general or in individual cases. We are committed to strengthening the judicial independence and impartiality of the member states and to defend the rule of law in Europe.

Anke Eilers
President of the CCJE (from 1st January 2022)