Viviane Reding is a bit of a favourite among UK ministers. The European Commissioner for Justice has a knack of making such a good case for reform of Europe with her interviews and policies that Conservatives – and indeed Ukippers – are quite content for her to intervene as often as possible. This week, she’s got another cunning plan that eloquently makes the case for reform of Europe – and ministers will be standing up to her again.
Reding is expected to publish the second annual EU Justice Scoreboard on Monday: it’s a league table of all the EU member states’ justice systems. At first glance, this sounds like a nice idea: compare the independence and efficiency of different justice systems to encourage under performing countries to improve. But it has an ulterior motive: to create a uniform EU justice system across all member states (more on that here), and because Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is rather suspicious of this motive, to put it mildly, he continued to refuse to provide any data or co-operate with the Scoreboard process at all in its second year. Grayling thinks it is for member states and their judiciaries to work on improving their own justice systems, not the Commission, which is seeking to monitor and make recommendations on something outside its remit.
Grayling tells Coffee House:
‘We have no intention of the UK becoming part of a one-size-fits-all EU justice system, and it is just this kind of meddling that really irks the public. The Commission claims the Scoreboard is a tool for promoting effective justice and growth. I do not believe that the Commission has any role in the detailed monitoring or assessment of the justice systems of Member States to secure this goal.’
As useful as Reding is in showing voters what the Commission’s ambitions are, there’s also a warning here for David Cameron as he seeks to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Europe. Eurocrats like Reding are not sailing with the winds of change that Cameron likes to talk about: they’re sailing towards greater powers and union within Europe. Other member states have expressed their frustration with Reding’s activities: the challenge for Cameron is to take those frustrated countries with him.