On 6-7 February 2020, the HELP in the EU Focal and Info Points Meeting, organised in Strasbourg under the European Union-Council of Europe “HELP in the EU’” project, gathered over 50 members of the HELP Network, representatives of National Training Institutions (NTIs) for judges, prosecutors as well as of National Bar Associations (BAs) from EU member states and key stakeholders at EU level. On 6 February, representatives from the Western Balkans region were also present.
The meeting was opened by Mikhail Lobov, Head of Human Rights Policy and Co-operation Department, DGI Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, who highlighted that the “HELP in the EU” Project is an outstanding example of the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the European Union, providing a unique platform of interaction between the representatives of legal professions (judges, prosecutors and lawyers) with the aim to better protect human rights on a national level.
He expressed gratitude for the backing of HELP’s key allies, particularly, the EU as a strong political and financial partner, as well as the official partners from the EU MS. He concluded by reiterating the importance of building a relationship of trust and cooperation with national partners in order to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge.
Sophie Kammerer, from the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe, emphasised the importance of judicial training as a precious tool to spread and preserve the European Union-Council of Europe shared values and to promote the respect of human rights and rule of law, giving new impetus to European democracy. She presented the positive figures emerged from the evaluation of the European Judicial Training Strategy (EJTS) which succeeded in enlarging the capacity of network and training provided, increasing the knowledge of EU Law among legal practitioners and improving the sustainability of the strategy. The EJTS will be revised throughout the year, integrating the priorities presented by the new EU Commission, with the goal to make a step forward in the judicial training sector.
The key achievements of the European Union-Council of Europe funded projects “HELP in the EU” and “HELP Radicalisation Prevention” were presented to the participants along with the main plans for the next phases of the projects including the development of a new course on “Judicial Ethics”. Ana-Maria Telbis, Coordinator of the European Union-Council of Europe –“HELP in the EU” project, provided an update on figures relating to the first phase of the project. Impressively, a 77% success rate has been registered for courses launched in tutored form under the project, covering over 600 participants in total. Hence, she underlined the efficiency of the tutoring and co-tutoring approaches which provide an added value to the courses both in terms of participants’ motivation and training effectiveness. She also introduced the key points of the follow-up project – European Union-Council of Europe “HELP in the EU II”, in which a new course will be developed (Judicial Ethics) and four courses will be updated, including Asylum and the ECHR, The fight against racism, xenophobia homophobia and transphobia, Data protection and privacy rights, Labour Rights as Human Rights, in order to enrich the platform with accessible and readymade tools translated and adapted to the different national contexts.
Eva Massa, Coordinator of the European Union-Council of Europe “HELP Radicalisation Prevention” project presented the main achievements of the project which ended in September 2019 and highlighted the increasing demand for the HELP course on Radicalisation Prevention also from countries that have not suffered terrorist attacks. The participation of judges, prosecutors, prison and probation staff contributed to the success of the course, taking advantage of the inputs provided by different categories of users. The second phase of the project, which started in January 2020, will focus on judicial response to terrorism and international cooperation in criminal matters to enhance implementation and practical application of EU instruments on criminal matters through increasing capacities and mutual trust of justice practitioners.
Ana Medarska-Lazova, Project Coordinator at the HELP Programme presented the impact concerning the HELP Programme of the EU Judicial Training Strategy. The strategy was successful in promoting e-learning, supporting the geographical scope of the Programme and its sustainability and facilitating a practical training methodology, responding to the participants’ needs. She also presented the new Council of Europe Recommendation (2019)5 on the European Convention on Human Rights in university education and professional training which provides general principles on how to approach human rights legal training.
Carmen Morte, Head of Division at the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) presented the resources available on the Court’s website and the HUDOC database. The increasing number of resources (guidebooks, factsheets, research reports etc.) developed by the Court and made available to legal professionals is a direct response to the efforts to enhance the principle of subsidiarity at national level.
The afternoon session continued with an overview of some success stories from HELP courses implementation in cross-professional format. Katrin Uerpmann from the Council of Europe Bioethics Unit and Ronalds Rozkalns, tutor of the HELP course on bioethics set out the benefits of delivering a training in Bioethics for legal and healthcare professionals in order to breach the gaps of knowledge between the two groups of participants. Petros Alikakos, tutor of the HELP course Fight against Racism, Xenophobia, Homophobia and Transphobia, also illustrated the fruitful dialogue between judges and police officers during the course, stating that all the participants gained something from this experience.
Closing the first day of the conference, Ana Medarska-Lazova from the HELP Programme and Szymon Janczarek from the Council of Europe Department of Execution of the European Court of Human Rights Judgments presented the newly updated course Introduction to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights and the new module Execution of European Court of Human Rights Judgments.
Ana-Maria Telbis presented the promotional videos of the three HELP courses, Family law, Gathering and Use of Evidence in counter-terrorism cases and Procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings and victims’ rights) developed under the European Union-Councul of Europe “HELP in the EU” project and their outcomes was screened.
The second day started with a presentation delivered by Lawrence Early, former Jurisconsult at the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights, on the topic of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary from the European Court of Human Rights perspective. He stressed the underpinning consideration of the respect of the rule of law, which is a foundational principle lying in the heart of democracy. The rich exchanges and numerous questions from the participants at the end of the session showed a keen interest on the topic and reinforced the need for the new course on Judicial Ethics.
The event continued with a roundtable discussion about the role of Focal and Info Points in the successful integration of the HELP Programme and courses in the national training. Speakers shared models applied, good practices and lesson learned during the implementation of the courses, emphasising the ease of communication between the HELP Secretariat and the Network Members, the flexibility in the implementation of the courses and the importance of carrying out training of trainers sessions with the aim to increase ownership by national partners.
The last session was dedicated to mapping priorities for HELP actions in EU member states. The future activities planned under the European-Union “HELP in the EU II” project will take into consideration the expressions of interest of various national partners in launching courses, at national and cross-border level.
In their closing remarks, the HELP team stressed as a key point the need for mutual trust and cooperation between HELP and invited all the participants to meet again in Strasbourg for the 2020 HELP Annual Network Conference scheduled for 8-9 July 2020.