Before giving the report the President stated that the necessary presence quorum of more than half of the member States is fulfilled and he expressed his deep thanks to Mrs. Stoeva as Chairperson of the Bulgarian Association of Administrative Judges, for hosting the General Assembly. Furthermore, the President also expressed his gratitude for assistance within the organizational work to Mr Koenigshofer and Mrs Tzakova. The president also welcomed explicitly Court presidents and Vice-Presidents of national Supreme Courts, being present as representatives or observers, as well as Mr Clement, representing also the European Commission and giving mention to the fact, that that this meeting was partly funded by an operational grant from the European Commission, GD JFS within the framework of the Human Rights' Programme. Nevertheless the AEAJ were the only responsible for the meeting.
The presiding President gave his report to the general assembly, briefly pointing out the board activities. Within the last year, the board met in October 2008 in Paris on the occasion of a conference on environmental matters, organized by the European Union and among others also by the AEAJ and in February 2009 in Vienna. At this occasion a visit to the Fundamental Rights Agency to establish contacts was made as well as a representative of EIPA, who could present the ideas of funding of EIPA, was welcomed during the meeting.
Special mention was given to the several meetings which had taken place since the last General Assembly of the different working groups:
The working group on environmental matters, chaired by Vice-President Werner Heermann, was mentioned to be very active. The above mentioned conference on 9-10 October in Paris on environmental law matters had also been co-organized by the AEAJ, contributing with invited speakers and participants, so that in total among 30 to 40 members of the AEAJ could participate by receiving also funding from the European Commission. However, the president had to mention regretfully that no funding was allowed for Croatian colleagues, as being not yet member of the European Union.
The working group on taxation law, chaired by Vice-President Jasna Segan, had held a meeting in Ljubljana in 2008, in the course of which contacts could be installed with the relevant General Directorate of the European Commission, so that members of the working group could participate actively in a conference, hosted by the European Commission from 10th to 12th December 2008 in Luxemburg, dealing with taxation matters.
The working group on asylum and immigration matters will hold a seminar on 5th to 6th June 2009 in Vienna, which would be already partly funded by operational grants of the European Commission.
With respect to the existing working group on independence and efficiency, which had been presided by Prof. Raikos (Greece) and Mr Schockweiler (Luxembourg), due to different reasons, both chairs had resigned, so that the sub-group on Independence would now be chaired by Vice-President Mrs Sandström and Efficiency by Vice-President Mr Even.
Referring to the aim of registration of the Association of European Administrative Judges the President announced that the registration had successfully been enforced, so that the AEAJ were now a registered association under German law, expressing his gratitude to Vice-President Mr Heermann for his efforts.
On the issue of funding, the President was glad to communicate that the General Directorate Freedom, Justice and Security under its Fundamental Rights Programme had granted operational funding of in sum about 35.000 Euro, which means to be 80 % of the total activities. Therefore the AEAJ needed to contribute to the activities approximately another 9.000 Euro. Therefore the activities could thus be enlarged and had thus to be enlarged according to the application for funding.
On the item of news of the members of the AEAJ, the President reported that the Estonian colleagues asked the AEAJ for support, so that a letter of complaint had been written to Estonian officials, as in Estonia, in Lithuania as well as in Croatia, colleagues are in dispute with State officials as there are plans to lower their salaries.
The present observer of the Netherlands reported that co-operation with the AEAJ is sought by the High Administrative Court, whereas the first instance administrative courts might join the AEAJ in future.
After a participation of the Secretary-General in a workshop, organized by the Ukrainian Supreme Administrative Court in September 2008, contacts were being upheld and there were signs for a will of closer co-operation with AEAJ.
The present observer from Northern Ireland noted that an increase of contacts would be sought, as well as a closer co-operation with AEAJ and possibly membership.
Although in Portugal existed a national association of administrative judges, which has so far not yet joined the AEAJ, great interest in participation in the workshop of the asylum working group was shown. Furthermore, one Portuguese judge were already member in the working group on taxation law.
With respect to Belgium, the president reported that administration is concentrated at the Belgium State Council, however, contacts had already been installed with the recently founded Independent Asylum Board.
So far no specific news could be reported with respect to contacts with Switzerland.
On the issue of external relations of the AEAJ, the co-operation with the General Directorate on Justice, Freedom and Security was given special mention, which now granted operational funding for 2009. However, more intense contacts with this General Directorate needed to be made in the field of general matters of justice as well as in the field of aliens and asylum law.
Mr Clement, also representing the European Commission, gave mention to the newly created Justice Forum within the General Directorate of Justice, Freedom and Security, where AEAJ were member. He informed as well that the issue of e-justice would be an upcoming topic within the European Commission, and as major changes would be made with respect to justice issues within the European Commission, which will also be adopted in the “Stockholm programme”, the European Commission would be interested in closer contacts with judges.
Noting the Justice Forum, the president shortly also gave mention to two meetings of it in June and December 2008 as well as one in March 2009. The AEAJ were regular member within this Forum.
On the issue of relations with the Council of Europe it was stressed that the AEAJ was again represented as observer in different groups, among others in the Commission for the efficiency of justice (CEPEJ) as well as participated in the European Committee on Migration (CDMG).
With respect to the Fundamental Rights Agency the president gave mention to the fact that the AEAJ had been involved in their planning of their future working programme. Furthermore, members of the AEAJ could actively participate in an expert meeting in Malta in June 2008, in the Fundamental Rights Platform, which had taken place in October 2008 and May 2009 in Vienna as well as in the Human Rights Conference in Paris in December 2008, organized by the Fundamental Rights Agency. Regarding co-operation within the future working programme of the Fundamental Rights Agency, it was stressed that after having shown special interest in questions of legal aid, now a broader approach towards problems of access to justice seemed to be of interest for the Fundamental Rights Agency.
Contacts and mutual information were also upheld with the Association of Councils of State and Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions of the European Union, inter alia the above mentioned conference on environmental issues in October 2008 had been organized in co-operation with this Association.
Hence the President reported on the relation with the ERA, European Academy of Law, in Trier, where the association has its statutory seat, emphasizing the friendly contacts with this organization. At the upcoming meeting of the Board of Trustees, in which the AEAJ is member, Mr Schockweiler would represent and participate on behalf of the AEAJ.
With regret, the president had to report about the stop of activities of EJTN in 2008 due to financial problems.
Friendly contacts were also upheld to TAIEX, as the AEAJ was asked to nominate experts for two conferences, organized by TAIES in October/November 2008 in Ankara and Istanbul, for which 3 members could participate there as experts.
Finally the President expressed his thanks to the board members as well as to the Secretary-General, the Treasurer, and the Chairs of the working groups and especially to all national members for their contribution to the work of the association.
Report of Vice-President Werner Heermann:
Presiding the working group on environmental law issues, the Vice-President reported that the working group consists actually of 18 members from 12 States. The European Commission had published a communication on implementation of the EC environmental law COM(2008)773/4 in which cooperation with AEAJ were explicitly mentioned.
Apart from a presentation of a statement at a conference on access to justice organized by the DGENV on 2 June 2008 in Brussels, the already mentioned conference on 12 – 13 October 2008 in Paris dealing with environmental law had been co-organized also by AEAJ, respectively the working group on environmental law. AEAJ could nominate up to 34 participants and had been represented also by two speakers (Werner Heermann, Ryszard Mikosz).
Two working group members (Dieter Beck, Rasa R.-Markoviene) had attended a conference held on 16 – 17 in Brno (Czech Republic) also on issues of access to justice.
In co-operation with the General Directorate on Environmental Matters and the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), the AEAJ had organized together with the Bulgarian Association of Administrative Judges a conference in Sofia with the main issues of nature protection and water protection (where 15 members of the working group, 21 Bulgarian judges and some guests attended the conference) in the fore math of this General Assembly. Finally, he announced that AEAJ would be represented at an international conference on environmental law in Sibiu (Romania) on 23 – 25 September 2009.
Report of Vice-President Jasna Segan:
The Vice-President reported on the progress in the work with her working group on taxation law. As already shortly mentioned by the President, she could establish contacts with the General Directorate in Taxation Matters and thus nominate one judge per Member State to participate actively in an Conference organized by the European Commission in December 2008 in Luxembourg. Vice-President Segan noted that meantime the partners of the European Commission had noticed the members of the working group as important stakeholders. Therefore a functioning network could be established in this area. Two working group members had been speakers on this conference and the working group meeting had taken place in the aftermath of the conference.
The next working group meeting would take place in autumn in Beaulieu sur mer and 4 different topics would be dealt with by the members of the working group. So far the working group were composed of 26 members of 20 different countries.
With respect to the above mentioned Justice Forum, the Vice-President stressed the importance of participation and of presence by AEAJ, as predominantly civil and criminal justice topics had been dealt with, thus now more regard would need to be focused on administrative law matters. Within the Justice Forum, a training forum had been installed, as it had been realized that more training and co-operation would be important issues. The last meeting of a sub-group of the Justice Forum, had taken place in March 2009 on the topic of e-justice, thus a new portal should be opened and active from the end of the year 2009 onwards, which would then give necessary information on legislation, jurisprudence and decisions of national member States.
The Vice-President also mentioned that EJTN (European Judicial Training Network) had held a workshop on judicial training for administrative judges in September 2008.
Report of Vice-President Annika Sandström:
The Vice-President mentioned the importance of independence, linked with efficiency. She gave mention to the last meeting of the working group on independence and efficiency in Beaulieu in 2008.
She reported that preparations for the next meeting of the working group in Beaulieu in autumn had already been started and were going on.
Report of Vice-President Bernard Even:
The Vice-President reported first of all on the national situation in France, where two different unions of administrative judges existed, which were in dispute with State officials and prepared for going on strike within the coming weeks to fight for higher quality of justice standing in contrast to an increasing pressure of statistics. Information would be available for everyone on the web.
Furthermore, he stressed the activities of AEAJ within the Council of Europe, as noted above, expressing his regret that CGDA, a working group on administrative law proceedings, had ceased to meet due to budgetary reasons within the Council of Europe. On 13th of June another meeting of the working group CEPEJ would take place, where co-operation with the European Union would be a topic, dealt with.
With respect to the working group of Independence and Efficiency, he mentioned the last meeting in Beaulieu sur mer in 2008, noting that preparations for the next meeting had already started. As measures to fasten procedures linked with issues of guarantees of fundamental rights were also dealt with and as a revision of a recommendation of the European Council, dating back to 1994, on issues of independence, efficiency and the role of justice would come up, it would be advisable to deepen contacts on this occasion and to assist in the revision work of this recommendation.
Finally, he also gave mention to the upcoming meeting in Strasbourg at the end of October.
Report of the treasurer Ralf Höhne presented by President Heinrich Zens:
As the treasurer unfortunately could not participate in the this years’ General Assembly due to his probation period in a higher administrative Court, the president had a file of calculation for the year 2008, explaining receipts and expenses, distributed. He shortly stressed that the balance of the account had been about 6.500 Euro on 1st January 2008 and about 3000 Euro on 31st December 2008.
The auditors, Mr. Bengt Almebäck and Mrs. Laura Yilmaz, after examining the accounts, gave their reports, indicating that there would be no complaint. All the accounts were in good order.
The general assembly decided to discharge the board and the treasurer.
Membership fees for 2009:
The president noted that as a prerequisite of the now received operational funding by the European Commission, the AEAJ were not allowed to have any profits of this years work. Therefore, the AEAJ were obliged to contribute about 9.000 Euro. Thus receiving all membership fees for this year, the AEAJ would, however, have profits.
To avoid this, the General Assembly decided unanimously as follows:
“The regular membership fees for 2009 will be proportionally reduced in such a way that the entire amount of membership fees for this year will be € 8.917,04. A surplus will be taken as a payment for 2010.”
Admissions of new members:
On the other hand, the president reported, that Mr Aldis Lavins, member from Latvia, had changed chamber within his court and were no longer dealing with administrative legal matters, therefore asking to discharge him.
The General Assembly unanimously discharged Mr Lavins from memberhip with the AEAJ.
Programme for 2009/2010:
The President had the rough dates of the upcoming events distributed.
He welcomed the idea of a combination of the here proposed topics for the working group meeting of independence and efficiency.
The next board meeting would take place in Stockholm on 4th September.
More detailed information about the upcoming events would be sent to the members soon and insistingly asking to send all nominations for participation for all upcoming events then still in June:
With respect to the programme for 2010, the president announced that in spring another board meeting would be necessary for detailed planning; also another application for funding would be made, in case there would be another launch by the European Commission.
As the Bund Deutscher Verwaltungsrichter were organizing a meeting, “Deutscher Verwaltungsgerichtstag” for 2010 in Freiburg, the next years General Assembly could be linked with this conference, as already agreed by the German colleagues. For preparation of this conference, an installed steering committee had asked the AEAJ to organize an extra round table with topic chosen by AEAJ, apart from the other working groups and round tables already planned for this conference. The round table should continue for half a day, be done in English. The conference would take place from 5th to 7th May 2010.
In the course of the discussion of the participants of the General Assembly the general topic of salaries was chosen to be presented by the AEAJ at the conference in Freiburg next year, in this context the observer from Northern Ireland pointed out that the question of independence and salaries would be linked. Thus the General Assembly decided unanimously to propose this topic to the German Association “Bund Deutscher Verwaltungsrichter” for their next year’s conference.
The Estonian representative stressed that in Estonia due to the economic crisis, the legislator planned an attack on the salaries of judges. The Estonian National Association of Administrative Judges had urged to reflect these plans with respect to problems of independence; however, it will be topic in Estonian Parliament beginning of June. Therefore an open forum within the AEAJ would be welcomed which would deal with these matters. It was assured, that the working group on independence and efficiency had and would tackle also this problem.