On 9th of July 2021 a closing event of 19 months long project "Strengthening the access to justice in Latvia through fostering mediation and legal aid services, as well as support to the development of judicial policies and to increased quality of court management" was held, which was widely attended and honoured by the presence of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns, the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) president Ramin Garagurbanlıand Daniele Dotto, Acting Director and Head of Unit, Governance and Public Administration, DG REFORM, European Commission.
Jānis Bordāns highlighted: "This project has significantly contributed to strengthening the justice system and has raised a very important aspect of the accessibility of the system to the society. I would like to thank all the parties involved in the project, the European Commission and CEPEJ, as well our institutions – Court Administration, Legal Aid Administration and also Council of Certified Mediators, who all have done intensive work to ensure that the results of the project are comprehensive and useful to the development of the justice system in Latvia."
The main results achieved in the framework of the project are the following:
- An expert advice has been provided and a number of important instruments have been introduced to modernize the administration of courts, in the context of monitoring of court work, court capacity planning, as well as scheduling timeframes for judicial proceedings, allowing for a balanced workload between courts and judges, including a in depth assessment of the impact of judicial reforms.
- Expertise provided and developments ensured in the area of communication between judges, with court clients and as regards organization of remote work in courts.
- Conceptual vision has been prepared on the further development of ICT tools in courts and on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in courts.
- Programmes have been developed and training has been carried out on modern court and judicial management (for judges and court staff).
- Expert recommendations have been prepared to promote the use of mediation.
- A pilot project (as part of the ministry's policy to reduce the number of judicial proceedings) on mediation coordinators in courts and an analysis of its results has been carried out.
- A series of educational and informational activities have been implemented for judges, national and local authorities on mediation and recommending mediation in order to increase interest in the use of mediation in categories of civil cases and the dissemination of good practice.
- A mapping of current situation and a detailed assessment of the availability of legal aid (primary and secondary) has been carried out, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups and recommendations for improvements.
- A pilot project of primary legal aid has been implemented to introduce the principle of "one-stop" approach in the legal aid provided by the State.
- The results of the primary legal aid pilot project have been evaluated and specific recommendations have been made for the use of lessons learned in future developments of the system.
The project was launched in October 2019 and lasted 19 months. It was funded by the European Union through the Structural Reform Support Programme and in cooperation with the European Commission's DG Reform and implemented by the Council of Europe’s Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Latvia.
The European Commission has approved the Ministry of Justice’s proposal to support more initiatives that will build upon the achieved results, gained experience and recommendations during the last 19 months. The initiatives will be implemented through two projects, one called "Developing an Effective Online Dispute Resolution Concept in Latvia" with the support of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the second entitled "Strengthening access to justice in Latvia through fostering mediation and legal aid services (2nd phase)" with the support of CEPEJ.
The new projects will begin in Autumn 2021 and will continue to foster a more accessible justice for the society in Latvia. The projects will be funded by the EU using the Technical Support Instrument, and will be implemented by OECD and CEPEJ respectively, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Latvia.