Word from the Chair of the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ)
Mr Lennart Houmann (Ministry of Justice, Denmark)
I am most honoured to accept the chairmanship of CDCJ, a position that has been held by my many remarkable predecessors. I intend to guide the committee’s members in their work and discussions as effectively and as efficiently as possible and uphold the trust they have placed in me.
The European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) is an intergovernmental steering Committee created in 1963. It has a mandate mainly to steer legal co-operation among the Council of Europe member states in the fields of private and public civil law, in order to promote and facilitate co-operation and understanding between them as well as to identify the challenges that Europe and its various legal systems are faced with as a result of the developments in our societies and the emergence of new instances and claims.
The Committee is part of the intergovernmental co-operation of the Council of Europe in the field of standard setting. It is composed of representatives of all member states, mainly from the ministries of justice. The Committee is competent for legal areas, which concern all European citizens: civil law, family law, nationality issues, administrative law, rule of law questions, justice, and public law. Numerous and important legal instruments have been developed by the CDCJ in these areas.
These normative instruments come in different forms. A distinction should be made between the conventions which, after signature and ratification by the states, apply to them as international law standards, and the recommendations and other legal instruments (guidelines, for example) which, although non-binding, are nonetheless standards of reference for member states as they provide important guidance to the development of their national legislation, policies and practice.
Among the conventions prepared by the CDCJ, some of them are unique at international level and have a considerable immediate impact on the lives of European citizens. These include the European Convention on the Adoption of Children (Revised) (CETS No. 202), the Convention on Contact concerning Children (ETS No. 192), the Council of Europe Convention on the avoidance of statelessness in relation to state succession (CETS No. 200) or the Protocol amending the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (CETS No. 208).
As far as recommendations and other legal instruments are concerned, it is worth mentioning, in the field of administration of justice, Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)11 on the role of public prosecutors outside the criminal justice system, Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)12 on judges: independence, efficiency and responsibilities, and Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)11 on principles concerning continuing powers of attorney and advance directives for incapacity; and concerning relations between the state and citizens, Recommendation CM/Rec (2007) 7 on good administration. Many of these texts have gone far beyond Europe's borders and have had a considerable impact in many other countries around the world.
Also, the activity of the CDCJ has focused on aspects of private law and public law relating to the policy of the Council of Europe in favour of children. The Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on child-friendly justice and Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)13 on the nationality of children proved concrete achievements in this field.
Most recently, recommendations on the protection of whistleblowers (CM/Rec(2014)7) and the legal regulation of lobbying activities in the context of public decision making (CM/Rec(2017)2) have been adopted.
Finally, CDCJ is also instructed to promote awareness of the Council of Europe legal instruments for which the committee has been given responsibility to national authorities and other interested parties, and to facilitate their implementation. The support that CDCJ gives to member states offers them a greater understanding of the issues involved. Therefore there is an increasingly close synergy between standard-setting activities and co-operation projects that the Council of Europe carries out together with member states which require its expertise for specific assistance.