Resource Centre > Glossary > Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters


Relatively new EU policy officially linked to the free movement of persons (one of the four fundamental building blocks of the Internal Market).


It is contained in Title IV of the EC Treaty: ‘Visas, Asylum, Immigration and Other Policies Related to Free Movement of Persons’ (Articles 61-69 of the EC Treaty). It is coordinated by the Commission’s DG Justice. The DG is in charge of immigration, asylum, police cooperation, terrorism and organized crime, criminal and civil justice.

Following the Treaty of Amsterdam, a new objective for the European Union was to establish progressively “the area of Freedom, Security and Justice”. The Tampere Summit in 1999 adopted the programme for developing a “genuine area of justice, where people can approach courts and authorities in any Member State as easily as in their own”. The principle of mutual recognition was to be the cornerstone of judicial cooperation. The Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted the "Programme of measures for implementation of the principle of mutual recognition of decisions in civil and commercial matters" in 2000 (OJ C 12, 15.01.2001). On the request of the European Council, the European Commission established a Scoreboard in order to review the progress of the policy every six months. The Scoreboard includes legislative and other instruments adopted in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice. The final Scoreboard was adopted in 2004, setting out the achievements and failures in the implementation of the Tampere programme.

So far only the groundwork for mutual recognition of judgements and judicial decisions has been established. The Assessment of the Tampere Programme of 2004 heralds the need for the “European judicial area respecting the legal traditions and systems of the Member States,” and emphasises the need for mutual recognition (mutual recognition requires a “common basis of shared principles and minimum standards”).

The Action Programme adopted in The Hague in 2005 (‘the Hague Programme’), calls for the establishment of the European Area for Justice, where borders between states no longer constitute barriers to settlement of civil matters, to bringing court proceedings, or to enforcing decisions. The Hague Programme invited the Commission to adopt a detailed Action Plan, which was indeed done in 2005. Following these documents, the Commission produced further Scoreboards – every year since 2006. According to the 18-month Programme of the Council prepared by the French, Swedish and Czech Presidencies (2008), the Presidencies were to focus on designing a multi-annual programme of action for 2010 – 2014. The programme is to be based on the work of two high-level advisory groups on the future of home affairs and justice policies. The programme will be presented by the Commission in 2009.

The public consultation on the future priorities has now been concluded (‘Freedom, Security and Justice: what will be the future?’ Consultation on priorities for the next five years (2010 – 2014)), and the results of the consultation are to be published shortly.

The new programme of action – the Stockholm programme – will be adopted in December 2009.

On 10 June 2009 the Commission adopted the Communication on the plan of action for the next five years. The Commission emphasised the priorities in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice:

  • Promoting citizens' rights;
  • Making life easier - a Europe of Justice;
  • Protecting citizens - a Europe that protects;
  • Promoting a more integrated society for citizens.

In the area of civil justice, the Commission put forward the following proposals:

  • Completely abolishing exequatur for enforcement of court decisions;
  • Improving the evaluation of European judicial policies, and supporting Member States' efforts to improve the functioning of their judicial systems.


Legislation in the area of judicial cooperation is based on Article 65 of the EC Treaty, which enables the use of co-decision procedure in adopting measures in the area of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters having cross-border implications so far as it is necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market.

For examples of legislative measures adopted within the policy of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters: see our Legislation Section.