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 Theo Simons for having organized the meeting and General Assembly.
The President gave his report to the General Assembly, briefly pointing out the board activities since the last meeting of the General Assembly in Lisbon in 2012. He once again expressed his thanks to colleague Pedro Marchao Marques for having organized the last General Assembly.
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 6th and 7th September 2012 the working group on taxation matters had hold its meeting in Vienna, in the course of which the meeting had been hosted by president of the Independent Finance Board, Daniela Moser, as well as by the President of the Austrian Administrative Court, Clemens Jabloner, to who the President expressed his thanks.
Furthermore, on 4th and 5th October 2012 the environmental working group had held its meeting in Rome, in Palazzo Spada, the seat of the Italian State Council. The president expressed his gratitude to Ms Maria Laura Maddalena for having organized the meeting.
Finally, in the year 2012 the working group on independence and efficiency had held its meeting in Palermo on the topic of Europeanization of Administrative Procedural Law as well as the state of play of the recommendation 12(2010) of the Council of Europe. The president thanked Vice-President Giovanni Tulumello for having organized this meeting as well as a board meeting.
The president noted that the final report had been delivered to the European Commission in the course of the funding programme granted for 2012. As AEAJ had not spent all the co-funds granted by the European Commission – due to lack of interest of participants - , thus AEAJ needed to return about 3.000.- to the European Commission. These proceedings on the final accounting for 2012 had not yet been finalized by the European Commission, which had requested further bookkeeping information.
Regarding new projects, the president reported that funding und the funding programme of fundamental rights had been applied for again for 2013, a decision had not yet been taken by the European Commission on this application. In case funding were granted, AEAJ had a budget of approximately 95.000.- (which included funding of 76.000.- and own means of 19.000.-). In case funding were granted, according to the basic criteria given in the president’s letter of February 2013, co-funding for participants up to 550.- could be granted, otherwise only small funding would be available.
On 16th and 17th May 2013 AEAJ had held already a workshop on environmental matters, organized together with the Romanian NIM in Bucharest.
Furthermore, from 5th to 7th June the German Verwaltungsgerichtstag would take place in Münster, in the course of which AEAJ would organize a workshop on Judicial Ethics as well as a meeting of the working group on independence and efficiency on the topic of “Legal remedies and compensation in case of long lasting procedures”, organized by the co-chairs, Vice-President Annika Sandström and Vice-President Bernard Even on the seat of the administrative court in Münster.
Furthermore, on 13th and 14th June a seminar on access to justice, among others on tools to handle conflicts of different legal sources of different origin, would be organized together with the Romanian NIM in Bucharest.
The asylum working group would hold its meeting in Split, Croatia, from 19th to 20th September 2013, the working group on taxation matters would meet in Athens from 26th to 27th September 2013.
Apart from these events, AEAJ had a co-operation with the University Institute in Florence, which had applied for a specific project for EU-funding and AEAJ had been co-applicant, with no financial contribution, but contribution by sending experts to different seminars. As the project were now granted funds from the European Commission, the first (of altogether 4) seminar would take place on 27th and 28th May in Florence, on “non-discrimination”. According to the formal procedure for participation, participants of AEAJ would participate. Regarding further seminars in the context of this project, AEAJ had already noted that less formal procedures for participation would be welcomed.
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 – referring to the President’s report, she noted that in the course of the last General Assembly a workshop on lay judges had also been organized. As an outcome of the meeting of the independence working group in Palermo in 2012, the European Council had been informed on basic infringements of the recommendation 12(2010) on the basis of country reports presented by the participants. The European Council had acknowledged the information given to him and had positively remarked that it would be looking forward for continued co-operation with AEAJ. She had assisted in the preparation of the conference, taking place this afternoon, 24th May 2013 on "An effective remedy in administrative cases: the principle of finality" as well as on the workshop taking place on judicial ethics in Münster from 5th to 7th June 2013.
Report of Vice-President Bernard Even:
The Vice-President, as co-chair of the working group of Independence and Efficiency, firstly reported on the working group meeting in Palermo in 2012, which had deliberated also on “Europeanization of public administrative law”, concentrating in the questionnaires on issues of the impact of Art. 6 ECHR on proceedings as well as indirect consequences of EU principles on procedures. As European norms would be a common basis, a harmonization of the quite different national systems might be reality in future. The meeting in Palermo had been attended by 50 participants.
Regarding the programme for 2013, he had assisted in the preparation of the conference, taking place this afternoon, 24th May 2013 on "An effective remedy in administrative cases: the principle of finality". He would also prepare the working group meeting in Münster on ”legal remedies and compensation in case of long lasting procedures”, also he would be giving a presentation of the French system in the course of the workshop on judicial ethics in Münster.
He had represented AEAJ in the last ERA meeting in Trier, had attended the opening session of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, a meeting on the problems of judges trainings in Brussels and he had also undergone an EJTN exchange in Vienna in 2012.
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 in Rome in October 2012, the seminar in co-operation with NIM in Bucharest and about his preparatory work for the meeting in November 2012 in Palermo, furthermore he had acted as speaker in an EJTN seminar organised on access to justice in environmental matters in Lisbon in October 2012. The Vice-President also gave mention to an EU seminar on corruption and money laundering, which he had attended in Brussels in December 2012, in the course of which he had installed contacts, as an independent judiciary were important to prevent corruption.
Report of Vice-President Holger Böhmann:
He noted that he would co-chair the working group on asylum and immigration together with Bettina Maurer-Kober. The last working group meeting had taken place in Berlin in April 2012, giving special mention also to the seminar organized by NIM, ERA and EJTN in Bucharest on asylum matters with three speakers of AEAJ and other members of the working group participating at the seminar. As a representative of EASO(European Asylum and Support Office) had also participated there, meantimes, a co-operation of AEAJ with EASO had started smoothly. The main tasks of EASO for the time being were the establishment of an EU wide database on asylum cases also on national jurisprudence and the training of judges in member States. For this, EASO warmly welcomed the practical inputs of AEAJ. The first meeting had taken place in December 2012, Bostjan Zalar, had represented AEAJ. He himself had been able to attend the second meeting in March 2013, then also discussing the framework of co-operation. As there would be further regularly meetings, other members of the working group would participate and represent AEAJ. A conference might be organized by EASO in December 2013, EASO would appreciate the input of AEAJ and the existing networks of AEAJ, he had made clear that AEAJ would need financial support in exchange from EASO for participation.
He gave mention to the upcoming meeting of the working group meeting in Split, 19th and 20th September 2013, among others also a representative of EASO would give a presentation.
Finally he noted that he would participate as representative of the German Association, BDVR, at a conference in Kasachstan in June 2013 and represent AEAJ there.
Report of the co-chair of the working group on taxation law, Aiste Medeliene:
The co-chair reported on the last meeting of the working group in Vienna, which had been very fruitful and expressed her thanks to President Heinrich Zens and to all speakers. Only a week ago a conference had taken place in Vilnius on tax litigation. Regarding the upcoming working group meeting in Athens, she noted that participants had been active only partly so far, topics would be the connex between taxation and criminal proceedings, fundamental rights in practise and the CJEU practise by giving a presentation of recent jurisprudence.
Report of chair of the environmental working group, Werner Heermann:
Chairing the working group Environmental Law, he reported on the updated number of members of the working group (38 members coming from 19 countries). He gave mention to the meeting of the working group in Rome on 4th and 5th October 2012, with the subject on “mediation and amicable settlement before the court in environmental cases as well as the rights of the parties in the environmental lawsuit”.
Furthermore, he noted the workshop in Bucharest in Cooperation with the National Institute of Magistracy, which were organized on the topic of European nature protection law.
He also reported the representation of AEAJ by colleague Matthias Keller on the conferences of EUFJE (EU Forum of Judges for the Environment) on 26th and 27th October 2012 in The Hague.
11 members had attended the meeting of the Aarhus Convention Commission expert group for national judges on 26th November 2012 in Brussels, he had also been on a mission of OSCE in Belgrade and had also attended a conference organized by the Fundamental Rights Agency on behalf of AEAJ from 6th to 7thDecember 2012 in Brussels. He had also attended – on invitation of honorary working group member Professor Okubo, Japan, an international symposium in Japan and had given an address there on “the intensity of review in German environmental cases”.
The EU-programme “support for co-operation with national judges in the field of environmental law”, which had first been conducted by EIPA, would now be conducted by ERA, which had won the tender for continuation of this programme. ERA would be interested in a co-operation with AEAJ, several workshops, in which members of the working group would be speaker, would deal with industrial emissions and would take place in Budapest from 3rd to 5th June and in Trier from 11th to 13th September 2013. Member Anders Bengtsson had been sent to the steering committee, which had held its first meeting on 12th April 2013.
Finally this years working group meeting would take place on 13th September 2013 in Dublin, in the shape of a joint seminar with the Irish Centre of European Law (ICEL) on “remedies against public authorities for breach of EU law and the ECHR with a focus on remedies for failure to act”.
He finally noted that Mr Anders Bengtsson would act as co-chair of the working group further on.
The treasurer reported on the budget and the calculation for the year 2012, explaining receipts and expenses, distributed.
Membership fees for 2012 were paid, with exceptions of Hungary and Luxemburg. As Hungary had not paid membership fees since 2008, the board had decided to ask the Hungarian Association ultimately, what the treasurer will do during the next weeks. If he will not receive any prompt answer, the exclusion procedure will be started.
The treasurer mentioned that 3.200.- needed to be repaid to the European Commission due to non-exhaustion of grants in 2012. After this, about 4.500.- would be left in the accounts of AEAJ.
He urgently noted that the membership fees for 2013 would be needed in case of big funding, granted by the European Commission, as the own means of AEAJ were then 19.000.-
The expenses of 2011 had been all within the decided financial limits and therefore for 2012 about 14.000.- Euro were available on own means.
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 work. Regarding missing membership fees – also from some individual members - it was noted that the statutes provide the possibility of exclusion if continued. Furthermore, it was noted that the membership fees for 2013 had not yet been paid by all participants.
The general assembly unanimously decided to discharge the board and the treasurer as well as the auditors.
The following individual members were unanimously admitted by the General Assembly:
Mr Martin Kayser, Switzerland
Ms Cristina Coman, Romania
Ms Marta Velasques, Spain
Ms Maria Fernanda Mirman Castillo, Spain
Ms Katy van Boven, Netherlands
Mr Rene Seerden, Netherlands
In exchange to the individual Croation members up to now, the following Croation members were unanimously admitted by the General Assembly (colleagues Babic and Kujundzic also, in case they were willing to continue their membership):
The following observer was unanimously admitted by the General Assembly:
Mr Carlo Schockweiler, Luxemburg
The treasurer and the president reminded that membership fees needed to be paid latest end of January for the actual year. Furthermore he noted that membership fees were so far fixed on the regular level, which would be 1.300.- Euro for the bigger countries, 300.- Euro for the smaller, former Eastern European countries and 30.- for individual members. Membership fees were unanimously fixed to be at the same level as 2012.
The representative of the Greek association of administrative judges, Mr Troulinos, reported on the situation in the administrative justice system in Greece due to the economic crises, which inflicted immensely also the proceedings, including also measures being a risk for independence. It was unanimously decided to publish the report on www.aeaj.org and to be sent to CCJE.
Also Mr Danias Panagiotis noted the efforts of AEAJ, however, salaries of administrative judges had been cut enormously. He asked AEAJ to issue a recommendation so that Greek judges need to be consulted before legislative acts, which affected judges, were passed, stressing the right to be heard also for judges.
The president remarked that cuts of up to 50% were of enormous quantity, the European Commission, however, did not care about the AEAJ’s statement on this in 2012, but had answered to AEAJ that the cuts were on an equal level for all civil servants.
President Heinrich Zens announced his resignation for 2014.
The president referred to prior distributed information, that General Secretary Edith Zeller would be candidate as board member, as already deliberated in the last board meeting.
The General Assembly voted unanimously for Ms Edith Zeller to be member of the board of AEAJ from 2014 onwards (in line with Article 5 para. 2 of the Statutes).
The president noted that Mr Bernard McCloskey had suggested to hold a common meeting of the working group on Independence and Efficiency with the British Female Judges Association on judgement writing in June 2014 in London, at a premise near the airport of Heathrow. Mr Bernard McCloskey gave a short report about the British Female Judges Association, being part of the International Female Judges Association.
The environmental working group had plans to hold a seminar with NIM in Romania and to have a meeting in Spain or Munich.
The working group on taxation would still deliberate about next year’s plans, a meeting might be organized in Estonia.
The asylum working group had the idea to hold a meeting in France, giving special mention to the fact, that more French colleagues were now active in the working group.
The place for the General Assembly 2014 still were not fixed yet.
Vice-President Annika Sandström gave mention to the fact that members, living in remote parts of their countries had greater efforts to participate at meetings of AEAJ. As already discussed in the board, such participants would be granted extra funding for accommodation for one more night, only if they apply so ahead and the board had decided to do so ahead.
The General Assembly unanimously agreed to this proposal.
Finally, warm and most grateful thanks was expressed to Mr Theo Simons, president of the Administrative High Court of the Netherlands, who had hosted the General Assembly as well as organized the conference "An effective remedy in administrative cases: the principle of finality”.
As no further remarks were made, the President closed the conference, thanking all participants for their active participation.