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 Mr Bernard Even for having organized the excellent conference in Paris as well as the respective working group meeting.
The President gave his report to the General Assembly, briefly pointing out the board activities since the last meeting of the General Assembly in Freiburg in 2010. Within the last year, the board had met in September 2010 in Brussels to prepare the autumn programme for 2010 and had met in March 2011 in Venice.
Special mention was given to the several meetings, mainly of the different working groups, which had taken place since the last meeting of the General Assembly:
On 24th and 25th September 2010 a meeting on questions dealing with Art. 8 ECHR as well as Art. 7 FRCh had taken place on Corfu, where on the basis of different national cases, fruitful discussions had taken place. In this context the president expressed again his warm thanks to colleague Panagiotis Danias, who had perfectly organized the meeting.
Furthermore, a meeting of the working group on Environmental Law with the topic "Access to justice in environmental cases; but what happens then?" on the basis of national case law had taken place in Spain, Aguilas, on 1st and 2nd October 2010. In this context the president expressed his warm thanks to colleague Moreno Grau, who had also perfectly organized the meeting as well as to Vice-President Werner Heermann for the excellent preparation of the scientific part of this meeting.
On 17th and 18th October 2010 the working group on Independence and Efficiency, dealing with the topic “Do judicial rights and citizens' rights granted by the Fundamental Rights’ Charta lead us to a common European procedure before the administration and the administrative courts?”, met in Beaulieu sur mer near Nice. The Conference were also devoted to deliberations concerning the revised version of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation R 12/94 on Judicial Independence.
This meeting were chaired by the Vice-Presidents Ms Annika Sandström and Mr Bernard Even.
Subsequent to this meeting, the meeting of the working group on Taxation Law took place in Beaulieu sur mer on 19th and 20th October 2010, dealing with the topics of rights and duties of tax payers, in particular concerning the protection of private life (Art. 7 of the Charta), data protection (Art. 8 of the Charta) and tax secret; furthermore with topics regarding protection of information given from the tax payer to the tax authority as well as legal remedies in this context and topics on VAT fraud as well as direct taxation and EU-law.
The president also informed the delegates about the denial of funding of the European Commission, Specific Programme on Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, for 2011, despite having granted funding before in 2009 and 2010. Only in the unlikely case that another selected applicant would refuse the grant of funding, AEAJ might get funding for 2011, as AEAJ had been put on a waiting list.
Due to these developments, membership fees for 2011 would be fixed again on the regular level, as there would be no need to have an increased amount of own means with respect to the funding conditions of the European Commission.
Regarding the receipt of funding from the European Commission for 2010, only half of the granted funding had been pre-paid already, whereas the rest were granted only after having controlled that the programme had been fully carried out. Thus the final report had already been submitted, AEAJ does not have yet received the rest of the payment for 2010 from the European Commission. In case the full funding would be granted by the European Commission and with membership fees on the regular level, AEAJ would have available about 18.000.- Euro for 2011, which would allow funding for participation at meetings on a lower level, whereas the costs for the conference in Paris would yet be unclear and still needed to be calculated.
The president thanked all Vice-Presidents, also the chairs of the working groups, the Treasurer and the Secretary-General for their work.
Report of Vice-President Annika Sandström:
The Vice-President thanked the President and 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 2010, as already mentioned by the President, in the organisation and preparation of which she had been involved as co-chair of the WG. She stressed, that whereas obviously in most countries Art. 41 and 47 of the FRCh were respected, lively discussions had especially evolved on the role of the judge in the proceedings
Furthermore, noted that she could actively participate in the meeting in Corfu in September 2010 and also assisted in the preparation and chairing of the meeting of the working group on Independence and Efficiency in the morning of 20th May 2011.
She gave special mention to the seminar on 6th to 7th October on "Implementation of directive 66/2007, judicial review in the matter of public procurements and contracts" in Bucharest in co-operation with the National Institute of Magistracy, Romania, which she would chair.
Report of Vice-President Werner Heermann:
The Vice President expressed his thanks to the President for his work in the last year, also by pre-financing the expenses of AEAJ.
He reported about his assignment in Azerbaijan in 2010, where he had been able to establish contacts with administrative judges, so that they now applied for membership with AEAJ.
Furthermore, he had represented AEAJ in a meeting on “Collective Redress” in Brussels on 4 – 5 April 2011 in the capacity as member of the Justice Forum. Following this hearing AEAJ had submitted a contribution which he had drafted before http://ec.europa.eu/justice/news/consulting_public/news_consulting_0054_en.htm
He gave also mention to the meeting of the working group on environmental matters, which had met in Aguilas in 2010, as already reported by the President. The working group was reported to be very active, comprising 24 members so far. The Vice-President informed the General Assembly, that the EU programme “Support for Cooperation with National Judges in the Field of Environmental Law” conducted by EIPA (European Institute of Public Administration) were still going on, in the course of which members of the working group were regularly able to attend these seminars. AEAJ were represented in the steering committee for this programme. In this context he had attended a meeting in Brussels on 24 June 2010.
Also in the framework of EUFJE (EU Forum of Judges for the Environment ) different conferences were and could be attended by members of the working group.
Regarding future activities of his working group, the Vice-President gave special mention to the workshop (“The Judicial Procedure in Environmental Matters”) in Bucharest on 2 – 3 June 2011 in co-operation with the National Institute of Magistracy, Romania as well as the annual AEAJ workshop (“Interim Relief in Environmental Matters”) on 22 September 2011, which would take place in Vilnius (Lithuania) in the context with an international conference the following day , organized by the University of Vilnius and the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania.
Report of Vice-President Bernard Even:
The Vice-President, as co-chair of the working group of Independence and Efficiency, firstly reported on the meeting of it in in Beaulieu sur mer in October 2010, which more than 50 participants had attended. He noted that inter alia the new “Recommendation of the Council of Europe on the independence, efficiency and responsibilities of judges” had been studied. Discussions had been based on the answers to a questionnaire provided by 13 member countries. Through these reports the situation and the main rules andpractices applied to administrative judges could be studied, which were important subjects for judges, as well as presenting with it an analysis of it’s content, with critics, connected with an analysis of the situation of the administrative judges in European Countries. The Vice-President hinted on the publication of these reports and also the summaries of the debates on the website of the AEAJ and noted that they had also been sent to the Council of Europe.
Furthermore, the Vice-President gave mention to the conference “Review of constitutionnality in Europe” on 19th May in Paris, which he had organized. The topic had been chosen on the occasion of the first anniversary of the entry into force of a new French constitutional law which created the mechanism of the “Priority issues of constitutionality” (“Question prioritaire de constitutionnalité” QPC), which allowed all the administrative and ordinary courts to refer via their supreme jurisdictions preliminary questions about the constitutionality of laws to the French Constitutional Council. The conference had been attended by approximately 200 participants and about 20 judges and academics could be gained as speakers. Publications of the speeches and debates were planned.As the information about the conference had been widely spread via different methods, also by creation of a special website by him, AEAJ were now better known in France.
Regarding the financial means for this conference, the Vice-President lay stress on the difficulties due to lack of funding by the European Commission, however, he hoped to get other means of funding from the French Ministry of Justice. In this context he also expressed his hopes to get better contacts with the European Commission.
The Vice-President mentioned also the importance of the meeting of the working group on independence and efficiency under his organization, which had taken place in the morning of 20th May, which mainly dealt with questions about the relation between Administrative courts and Constitutional Courts.
He also noted that he had recently established contacts with another seminar hotel, which had been recommended to him, for the next planned meeting of the asylum working group near Lyon.
Finally he drew the attention to the representation of AEAJ in the Council of Europe, where he and Mr Pierre Vincent, had represented AEAJ in different meetings. He stressed the two main important bodies for AEAJ, which would be the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) and the CEPEJ (European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice).
Report of Vice-President Giovanni Tulumello:
The Vice-President informed the delegates about his active participation in different meetings, inter alia in the meeting of the working group of environmental law, as well as in the meetings in Beaulieu last year, as well as having organized the board meeting in Venice in March 2011. He expressed his warm thanks to the president and all representatives of all associations, giving special mention to the need of active participation as well as the need to solve national problems first of all on the national level.
Report of the chair of the working group on taxation law, Jasna Segan:
The chair reported on the last meeting of the working group in Beaulieu in October 2010, as the President had already mentioned. She had also attended different meetings, organized by the European Commission in Luxembourg, e.g. the next meeting would be attended by 24 judges, most of them being also member of the working group. These seminars would be very helpful. She expressed that the conference on 19th May 2011 in Paris were very useful, also to make AEAJ more known publicly. She also drew attention to the European Law Institute (ELI), which would be officially founded on 1st of June in the course of a conference in Paris. She noted that it would be important to be involved in this organization and would spread this information also within her working group.
The next meeting of the working group would take place on 29th and 30th September 2011, dealing with topics of international tax law, good faith and recent jurisprudence of EU Court on tax matters.
Report of Holger Böhmann on his representation in the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA):
He shortly reported about his representation of AEAJ at the Fundamental Rights Platform meeting of FRA in Vienna on 14th and 15th April 2011. NGOs could present themselves quite openly in this environment, topics had been access to justice and asylum matters, where also reports of FRA existed. He noted he importance of FRA in these matters.
Report of the Exclusive Correspondent with the Council of Europe, Pierre Vincent
The Exclusive Correspondent reported on the activities within the Council of Europe, stressing the importance of co-operation with the Council of Europe, especially its activities with respect to administrative law, as strong links between the Council of Europe and the AEAJ existed. Among others he drew attention on the new recommendation 12/2010 on the independence, efficiency and responsibility of judges, which were rather a compromise and in his opinion not a progress in the rule of law. He noted furthermore the importance of the meetings of the Commission for the efficiency of justice (CEPEJ) and Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE).
The treasurer reported on the budget and the calculation for the year 2010, explaining receipts and expenses, distributed. Due to the funding granted by the EU Commission programme for 2010, the activities had been quite intensified. Therefore a distribution of detailed receipts and expenses to all participants of the General Assembly were impossible due to its volume.
Membership fees for 2010 were paid, with some exceptions: for 2010 the membership fees had been increased, as decided by the General Assembly, so that the bigger countries had to pay 1.850.- Euro (instead of regularly 1.300.- Euro), the smaller countries had to pay 300.- Euro (instead regularly 200.- Euro) and the still reduced membership fee for several countries had been 150.- Euro (instead of before 100.- Euro) and individual membership fee had been 45.- Euro (instead of regularly 30.- Euro).
The European Commission had effected the outstanding payments for 2009, as well as the first half of the payments for 2010. In the final report to the European Commission AEAJ now claimed another 11.000.- Euro, which would be paid by the European Commission after approval of the accounts and balances. The President had as well helped AEAJ with a pre-financing loan.
The auditors, Ms Siiri Lewis and Ms. Marja Liisa Judström, after examining the accounts, gave their reports, indicating that there would be no complaint. All the accounts were in good order, expressing the congratulations to the treasurer for his intensive work.
The general assembly unanimously decided to discharge the board and the treasurer as well as the auditors.
The treasurer noted that for 2011 membership fees should be fixed on the regular level, which would be 1.300.- Euro for the bigger countries, 200.- Euro for the smaller, former Eastern European countries, 100.- Euro for the specific countries with not enough financial means and 30.- Euro for individual members. Most countries had already paid and the treasurer asked for immediate payment of the outstanding membership fees.
He reported furthermore, that in the last board meeting, deliberations had taken place to close the gap between bigger countries and those from former Eastern Europe, as differences would be reasonable. There would be a proposal to raise the regular membership fees for those countries from now 200.- Euro to 300.- Euro or 400.- Euro. However, he gave special mention to the fact that in the case of financial difficulties special arrangements could be met.
The General Assembly unanimously adopted the regular membership fees for 2011.
The president reported that the Association of Judges, Division of Judges of the Administrative Courts of Lithuania applied for membership, which would in the future no longer allow individual membership of Lithuanian administrative judges. Ms Rasa Ragulskyte-Markoviene presented the association, noting that the national Association of the Judges of Lithuania had 570 members (70 % of all judges). The Division of the Judges of Administrative Courts has 65 members. The administrative courts were established in 1999 by a special law, starting to work on the 1st of January 2000. On the occasion of 10 years of administrative jurisdiction experience, members of AEAJ would all be invited to attend the conference, which will be organised by the University of Vilnius, the Supreme Administrative Court, the Division of Administrative Judges and AEAJ. The conference would take place on the 23rd of September 2011. The topic of the conference were „Administrative Courts in the European Administrative System“.
The General Assembly unanimously admitted the Lithuanian Association as member of the AEAJ.
Furthermore, Vice-President Werner Heermann, having a proxy of representation in the General Assembly of the Association of Judges of Specialized Courts of the Republic of Azerbaijan reported about the association, which were a NGO with judges as members and its main objectives would be judicial and legal reforms in Azerbaijan.
The General Assembly unanimously admitted the Azerbaijani Association as member of the AEAJ.
The following individual members were unanimously admitted by the General Assembly:
The following observers were unanimously admitted by the General Assembly:
Vice-President Werner Heermann announced his resignation for 2012.
The president referred to prior distributed information, that the German Bund Deutscher Verwaltungsrichter (BDVR) had proposed Mr Holger Böhmann as candidate, who were administrative judge in the Court of Appeal Mecklemburg-Vorpommern with international experience.
The General Assembly voted unanimously for Mr Holger Böhmann to be member of the board of AEAJ from 2012 onwards (in line with Article 5 para. 2 of the Statutes).
The president referred to the information already spread about the possible meeting of the working group on asylum law on 1st and 2nd July near Lyon. The hotel contingent would be open until the end of May, whereas an amount of funding would be possible about 100.- to 150.- Euro. However, as so far not enough participants had registered for the meeting, this would not be final yet. Cancellation would be needed in case of lack of interest. More information would be given as soon as possible.
Furthermore, the President noted again the meeting of the working group on environmental law in Vilnius as well as the conference, noted by Ms Rasa Ragulskyte-Markoviene, on 22nd and 23rd September 2011.
As already announced by the chair of the working group on taxation law, Jasna Segan, the meeting of the working group would take place on 29th and 30th September in Ljubljana.
Furthermore, the president noted, that a seminar on 6th to 7th October on "Implementation of directive 66/2007, judicial review in the matter of public procurements and contracts" would be held in Bucharest in co-operation with the National Institute of Magistracy, Romania. Up to maximum 15 participants could be granted accommodation for 2 nights by the Romanian Institute of Magistracy.
Finally he reported that AEAJ had received an invitation to hold the next General Assembly in the Netherlands in 2012.
Ms Marion Jaffré, representative from the French member association USMA, noted that an active involvement in the activities of AEAJ had been difficult for her so far, although she had wished to be more active.
Furthermore, she stressed a lack of information and in line with it transparency, as it were difficult to get information easily as well as to know when and how decisions were made, especially the website were not transparent enough.
She marked that it had been impossible for her to get involved into the organization (regarding topics) of the today’s workshop held by the working group on independence and efficiency, although she had urged to have specific problems being at stake in France, that she wanted to be discussed there.
Vice-President Bernard Even explained the background of the organization of the conference as well as the reasons for the choice of the actual topic, which had to fit in the overall programme this time and had been fixed already in the board meeting in September 2010. He referred to the information, prior delivered to Ms Marion Jaffré about the possibilities to deliberate on her proposed topics in the next meetings of working groups as well as in the meeting of the General Assembly.
Mr Holger Böhmann noted that in case USMA wanted to have specific deliberations on special topics, it could also make a proposal in the General Assembly, a decision of which would then be binding for the board of AEAJ, however, otherwise, it would be the board, entrusted by the General Assembly, to decide on the topics of the working group meetings.
Vice-President Giovanni Tulumello lay stress on the need to work actively in a working group as member of a working group, which would then automatically involve the possibility to exchange opinions and more involvement. He stressed that the dissemination of information, being a technical problem, needed to be separated from the issue of transparency, for the guarantee of which the dialogue in the General Assembly and working groups could be improved.
With respect to the remarks made by Ms Marion Jaffre about the lack of opinions and recommendations elaborated by the working groups, the President agreed that these instruments would be very important. However, due to the great diversity of national legal systems, practise has shown that sometimes it might be difficult to find common standards. He stressed that in case a member needed assistance in the struggle for independence, AEAJ had already acted on different occasions so far, in this case, AEAJ needed to be addressed so that immediate action were possible.
Ms Rasa Ragulskyte-Markoviene laid stress on the necessity of every member to be active within AEAJ. Mr Holger Böhmann noted that statements or common opinions could only be common minimum standards in Europe.
The President summarized the lively discussion by confirming that common opinions should be found in the meetings of working groups, if possible. Regarding recommendations by AEAJ or letters of protests in case independence would be attacked, this would always be possible in case the member country asked for it. He fully agreed that one of the aims of AEAJ were to defend judicial independence on European level.
Mr Marc Clement reported on the European Law Institute (ELI) which would be founded in the course of its founding conference on 1st of June 2011in Paris.
This institute would be meant to be counter-part of the American Institute of Law, members so far were private law experts.