The day before Heads of State and Government meet in Brussels on 5 November, the Conference of the Notariats of the European Union (CNUE) pledges its support to the European Council for the often cited objective of creating an area of freedom, security and justice for EU citizens.
The European Notariat thus supports any steps to simplify the mutual recognition and enforcement of authentic instruments, essential tools in preventive justice.
Furthermore, the CNUE would like steps to be taken to harmonise private international law, particularly with regard to family law procedures. This would mean that EU citizens’ expectations could be met whilst still respecting the specific traditions and legal systems of the different Member States.
Finally, the CNUE recalls that it intends to contribute to the European institutions’ current attempts at different levels to prevent terrorist financing and combat money laundering.
The European Notariats therefore applaud the establishing of a real partnership between the European institutions and notariats with a view to creating a European area of justice.
A Shared Goal of Freedom, Security and Justice
On 4 and 5 November 2004, the European Council will meet in Brussels to define its priorities with regard to implementing the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice. This is the follow-up to the Programme launched in Tampere in October 1999, Tampere II, which has been renamed “The Hague Programme”. During the summer of 2004, the European Commission organised a public consultation in order to gather together the opinions of the interested parties and to define the basis of the Programme.
As part of this exercise, the Conference of the Notariats of the European Union (CNUE) put forward an opinion comprising suggestions it wished to be taken into account during the realisation of “The Hague Programme”.
The Chairman of the CNUE, Mr Nikolaos Stassinopoulos, also Chairman of the Greek Notary Chamber, reminds us that “the European Notariat has broadly the same objectives as the European Council. That is, to give European citizens an area of freedom, security and justice.”
The Authentic Instrument, an essential tool in preventive justice
The CNUE shares the European Commission’s view that the European judicial area should not cast doubt over the legal and judicial traditions of the Member States. It stresses that the authentic instrument is an instrument of preventive justice appreciated by European consumers. This is why the European Notariat deems it essential to work towards virtually automatic recognition of notarised acts in all the Member States.
The authentic instrument enables notaries to offer citizens a real European legal instrument. Today, businesses in the European Union demand enhanced legal security, but also greater procedural efficiency and, above all, tighter deadlines. “The recently adopted European Enforcement Order allows all of this on a European level”, Mr Stassinopoulos summed up.
Consequently, quick and efficient enforcement procedures need to be put in place in order to guarantee the effective application throughout the European Union of authentic instruments recognised as such. The notarised authentic instrument has probative value (that is, what is declared by the person establishing it must be considered to be exact), but is also enforceable. This means that what has been decided must be enforced, and a judicial decision is no longer necessary to compel the signa tory to fulfil his or her obligations. This shortened procedure brings a significant result for the European legal area: a
lightening of the load for courts through improved prevention and enhanced legal security.
In addition, the authentic instrument is a real asset in intra-Community transactions. Civil and commercial contracts could therefore be drawn up by authentic instruments and no longer by instruments drawn up through private agreement.
“In the light of the increase in exchanges at a European level, we are also trying to offer citizens and businesses legal instruments which facilitate cross-border exchanges and transactions”, said Mr Stassinopoulos.
Notarised authentic instruments are therefore clearly identifiable as a tool intended for preventive justice.
The European Notariat’s suggestions for “the Hague Programme ”
The European Notariat expects Member States and the European Union to:
- continue their efforts to harmonise private international law in the sensitive domain
of family law;
- support the implementation of the network of national registers of last wills and
testaments through electronic interconnection of the existing registers in Europe. Such a register is already operational in Belgium and France and it considerably facilitates research in cases of cross-border successions ;
- further promote training programmes at a European level in cooperation with the relevant professional organisations. Thanks to Tampere I, in 2004 the European notariat has already organised a common training programme for notaries called “FORMANOTE“. The results of this programme will be officially presented to the public at the Closing Conference to take place in Brussels on 10 December 2004.
“Notaries guarantee legal security and consumer protection within the European Union” said Mrs Clarisse Martin, CNUE Director, reminding us that as part of its activities, the CNUE works to emphasise the essential role played by notaries for EU citizens, particularly with regard to giving objective advice.
The opinion communicated during the public consultation is available on the CNUE’s website, www.cnue.be and also on the European Union’s portal: http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/news/consulting_public/tampere_ii/notariats_FR.pdf