The European Commission has this week adopted a proposal for the review of the 2001 decision on the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters between the EU member states. The purpose of this proposal is to endow the network with a new legal framework, a more effective organizational structure and greater means to enable it to play a lead role within the European judicial area as the essential vehicle for cooperation between all those involved in civil justice in future. The creation of the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters developed from the idea that the gradual establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice requires the improvement, simplification and acceleration of effective judicial cooperation between the member states in civil and commercial matters. The Judicial Network in civil matters, which has been operating since December 1, 2002, provides tangible benefits for individuals and enterprises involved in cross-border litigation. Its function is to facilitate judicial cooperation between the member states and to improve public access to justice through its Internet site, which came online in 2003. The network consists of some 400 members, contact points with the member states, judges, liaison magistrates and central authorities of the justice ministries. In a report issued on May 16, 2006 (COM (2006) 203 final), the commission had observed that the Judicial Network in civil matters had generally improved judicial cooperation in the European Union, but that it was still far from achieving its full potential. In particular, it had emerged that the effectiveness of the network in accomplishing its tasks depended largely on the still limited performance capacities of its contact points and that these capacities needed to be increased. By means of this new proposal, the EC reported that it intends to strengthen the role of the network in performing its tasks of judicial cooperation. More specifically the EC proposal sets out to: - strengthen the role and means of the contact points designated by each member state; - open up the network to the legal professions; - improve public access to justice; - encourage the European judicial network to adopt a more open attitude to the world. For the EC, the purpose of the network has always been to become the key instrument for the practical establishment of the European area of civil justice. The EC reported that it continues to believe that the network can play a lead role as the EU's genuine operational tool for the implementation of the Hague Program as regards both the evaluation of how instruments are applied and, above all, the concrete expression of the reciprocal recognition of decisions and the improvement of judicial cooperation in civil matters. Without prejudice to the terms of reference of other structures, the network must therefore quickly become a permanent forum for discussion and monitoring the progress made and the difficulties encountered in implementing the instruments adopted in respect of civil matters, especially via input from the contact points and members for the network in terms of practical experience. In the autumn of 1999, the European Council held a special meeting at Tampere in Finland, devoted to the establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice in the EU. The heads of state or government asked the EC to take a number of initiatives to improve access to justice for individuals and firms in Europe, one of which was the establishment of a network of national authorities with responsibility for civil and commercial law. In September 2000, the Commission presented a proposal for a decision establishing the network which the Council then adopted in May 2001. The network consists of representatives of the member states' judicial and administrative authorities and meets several times each year to exchange information and experience and boost cooperation between the states as regards civil and commercial law. The main objective is to make life easier for people facing litigation of whatever kind where there is a transnational element, i.e. where it involves more than one member state. The EU currently has a wide variety of national legal systems, and this diversity often creates problems when litigation transcends national borders. Individuals and firms, and even more so the legal professions, will find it very useful to have access to knowledge about the various national systems of civil and commercial law and the legislative instruments of the EU and other international organizations including the United Nations, the Hague Conference and the Council of Europe. The Council Decision establishing the network consequently provided for the establishment of the website and determined the main points of its operation. The main purpose of the network's website is to outline various national systems of civil and commercial law. However, it does not set out to answer questions in practical matters or to provide legal advice about a specific situation. [email protected] Ari Syrquin is the head of the International Department at GSCB Law Firm.