EU/CoE Programme ‘HELP in the 28’ - European Seminar on Legal Training and Evaluation Methodology

Strasbourg, 20-21 March 2017


I am delighted to welcome you to the European Seminar on Legal Training and Evaluation Methodology organised under the joint EU-CoE Programme ‘Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals in the 28’, otherwise known as “HELP in the 28”. As most of you know, this is a Programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Council of Europe.

First of all, let me thank you all for your presence. In addition to members of the EU HELP Network, HELP national tutors and the best courses participants, we also have among us partners from other European organisations, notably the European Judicial Training Network, with whom we closely collaborate. And I would like to give a special word of thanks to Heiko Wagner, from the Judicial Training and e-learning in the EU’s DG Justice, for his presence today and his continued support.

“HELP in the 28” is approaching its end, or rather, I hope that I can say, to the end of its first phase. Since many of you have directly worked hard to make it happen or -  in the case of the courses’ participants - have benefitted from it, you can be very proud of what we have achieved and learnt together. We will hear more about that later today as this Seminar serves as a stock-taking exercise and also as a forum to identify best practices and lessons-learned that can be carried over in future HELP actions, particularly those focusing on EU countries.

For this reason, I would like to focus my intervention on the conclusions of the previous four thematic Seminars organised under “HELP in the 28” that many among you attended. These conclusions will be the starting point of the discussion groups that you will have at the end of the morning.

The first of the four seminars was organised by the French Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature (ENM) in 2015 on the topic of data protection and privacy rights. As with the other seminars, the participants were mainly legal professionals from EU countries who gathered in Bordeaux to exchange best practices in terms of training on this aspect of fundamental rights.

The issue of data protection and privacy is a cross cutting one that affects many aspects of life. It has been evolving continuously due to the rapid rate of development of new technologies and the problems that these can throw up. As a result, the rights of individuals have to be protected against abuses from public and private bodies and provided with effective remedies. Back in 2015, the Seminar concluded that, alongside improving the availability and quality of remedies in civil, criminal and administrative law, the role of legal professionals in defending private life rights had to be enhanced.

These conclusions fed into the development of the HELP course on data protection and privacy rights, which has been the one most requested during the implementation of the Programme. It was launched in 9 EU countries, and beyond its borders, neighbouring countries have expressed the wish for it to be translated and adapted for their legal systems.

The second Seminar on the "fight against racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia" took place in July 2017. It was organised in collaboration with the Spanish School for the Judiciary in Barcelona and was also very well attended. The objective of the Seminar was to analyse the phenomena of racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia in Europe, as well as the most effective legal ways of preventing and prosecuting these crimes.

An important part of the Seminar was devoted to a presentation of the European legal system of the Council of Europe and the EU as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the EU together with practical examples.

The main challenge seen by the participants was not reform of institutions or the adoption of new laws but the implementation of existing laws and standards in each case of discrimination across Europe, and not just in Strasbourg or EU capitals but at every first instance level. The need to reinforce the cooperation between national and international institutions to train legal professional in human rights as a means for a better application of European legislation was highlighted. The participants stressed the relevance of the practical training tools provided by HELP, such as the course against xenophobia and homophobia and the one on asylum. There has since been an increase in the demand of these courses from EU countries.

The third European Seminar, on “labour rights as human rights”, was organised jointly with the Slovenian Judicial Training Centre and its Supreme Court last September. Judges, prosecutors and lawyers gathered to raise awareness about labour rights and discuss the best ways to enforce them, particularly in times of economic crisis and austerity measures. The relevance of the European Social Charter (ESC) and the relationship between the CoE and EU systems were explored.

That Seminar was opened by the Minister of Justice of Slovenia, Goran Klemencic, who declared himself a defender of social rights, particularly labour rights, taking into account his country’s background and the worldwide context characterized by, as he put it, “the catch of the day: measures to make the labour market more flexible”. A former CoE expert himself, he stressed the worthiness of the training provided by the HELP Programme and its courses, particularly with the EU dimension added.

Our colleagues from Secretariat of the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) stressed the need for further ratification of the Revised ESC as 9 EU MS are still bound by the 'old' ESC. They also emphasised the importance to join the collective complaints procedure, as well as to ensure a better implementation at national level. They underlined that, after years of erosion of the European social welfare, the ESC should inspire more directly the policy-makers of EU member states. The potential of the collective complaints procedure in protecting labour rights was also illustrated with vivid examples from the ECSR's case law.

The President of the ECSR, Giuseppe Palmisano, analysed the Relationship between the EU law and the European Social Charter, as well as the relation between the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and EU Directives. He concluded that in the EU system, balancing values and objectives should lead to outcomes more consistent with the protection of labour rights.

The Seminar offered the right forum to promote the ‘HELP in the 28’ course on Labour Rights. The course does not only cover in a practical way the case law of the ECtHR and the CJEU but also the decisions and conclusions of the European Committee of Social Rights.

The fourth European Seminar on “Right to the Integrity of the Person, with a particular focus on the field of biology and medicine” concluded that safeguarding human rights should go hand-in-hand with promoting progress in biomedicine. The Seminar was organised in Belgium last autumn in cooperation with the Belgium Institute for Judicial Training (IFG-IGO) and the CoE Bioethics Unit. Together with officials from DG Justice, various experts covered the subject from the legal and medical perspective. The mutually reinforcing relationship between the CoE and EU systems was explored. The former CoE Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles closed the event, inspiring attendees to continue the fight for human rights, with much having been achieved in the last decades despite a very difficult and complex European context.  

If there is a single conclusion transversal to all Seminars, it could be summarised as follows: professionals need to equip themselves for the legal enforcement of not merely European legislation on various areas touching fundamental rights but also for upholding of European values and principles. Legal professionals do not need to become experts on human rights, but they should acquire the reflex to recognise when they face situations in which fundamental rights are being challenged and should be equipped to deal with them adequately. For this purpose, “HELP in the 28” has enabled the complementarities of the CoE and the EU systems to be highlighted. This complementarity has been an essential feature of the design of four new HELP courses, as well as in the revision of the existing course on asylum and in every one of the 25 launching events that took place in your countries. 

Today’s event is the fifth and last European Seminar organised under “HELP in the 28”. It will build on the previous ones, and certainly benefit from the accumulated know-how and practical experience of all HELP national partners (National Training Institutions and Bar Associations and their HELP contact points) and tutors. It will focus on ”Legal Training and Evaluation Methodology”.

The objective is twofold: first, to have an exchange of views on human rights training that is mainly, but not exclusively, based on the specific HELP methodology and its courses; and secondly, to explore how evaluation of training is done and how is measured its concrete impact, both for legal professionals and – much more difficult – for the ultimate beneficiaries, mainly the victims of human rights violations.

This Seminar is also as a wrapping-up exercise to identify best practices, provide guidance and share lessons-learned to pave the way ahead for more HELP actions in EU countries.

I encourage you to participate actively in the discussions and exchanges as legal professionals and as representatives from the HELP national partners. 

Without precluding your discussions and exchanges today, I wanted to give you a glimpse of some interesting best practices:

The joint launching of courses for combined groups of legal professionals, such as the course on fight against xenophobia and homophobia in Croatia for judges, prosecutors and police officers.

The inclusion of some HELP courses in the initial and continuing education programmes of partner institutions such as the French and the Spanish Bar Councils, leading even to professional accreditation. 

The replication of the HELP course on data protection that the Romanian Bar Council will organise with its own means after being flooded with dozens of requests from interested lawyers.

The embedding of HELP in the 28 courses in the national e-learning platforms of Judiciary Schools, like in Bulgaria or Portugal, enhancing the national ownership of the course.

The impact of courses developed under “HELP in the 28” into larger interventions and fora, such as the recently Conference organised in Cyprus on the national implementation of social rights, where judges considered that there was a need for further information and training on social rights and at which the Greek experience of the HELP course on labour rights was showcased.

Last but not least, the closer ties forged with key National Training Institutions to organise courses for judges jointly with lawyers, such as the Romanian National Institute for Justice, or the Spanish Judiciary School, that has allocated substantial financial resources for the launching of HELP courses in the coming months, and maybe… the organisation of a future Training-of-Trainers, emulating the good practice of the ToT organised with the French Ecole National de la Magistrature last year.

I would like to conclude by stressing the added value that HELP has provided in the last years, including its flexibility to adapt its courses to the different training needs of different audiences in different countries. With growing needs and increased requests from our partners, we in HELP strive to do our best to spread our resources effectively and to meet your needs.

On this journey, you together with your national institutions, along with European partners such as EJTN or CCBE and the EU, are our natural allies in Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals in EU MS.

Thanks to this EU-funded Programme, we have increased the professional interaction among the EU members of the HELP Network, implemented more courses in the EU and anchored the HELP methodology in Judiciary Schools and Bar Associations throughout the EU.

With more resources available, we could, on the one hand, intensify the implementation of the existing courses, and on the other hand, create new HELP courses on new domains relevant for EU countries, such as the prevention of radicalisation.

Your presence shows your committment to HELP and we look forward to continuing our outstanding cooperation to ensure that our joint efforts have a direct impact on securing the effective implementation of fundamental rights in EU member states.

Thank you very much for your attention.