The Union of Rights

Law in EU Member States

Access to citizenship, duration of trials and prison overpopulation: between laws and deficiencies, here is the situation in Europe

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Justice and Dignity

by Floriana Bulfon

In Italy, Slovakia and Malta a civil trial lasts more than 500 days on average

532 days of average duration at first instance for a civil trial, 984 for the administrative one, 386 for criminal proceedings and a perception of independence of the judges rated as ‘very poor’ by 25 percent of the sample and as ‘fairly poor’ by another 36 percent. This is the Italy of trials, overwhelmed by unreasonable timing and requirements, in which offenders are usually the advantaged ones. Together with us, according to 2014 data compiled by the Council of Europe Commission for the Evaluation of the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), Cyprus, where the criminal proceedings last an average of 246 days at first instance and administrative trials 1,775, and Malta, with 536 days to resolve a dispute at first instance in a civil trial, 306 in a criminal one, and even 1,408 days for an administrative lawsuit.

Nothing to do with Germany, in which 192 days are enough for a civil trial, and 111 for a criminal one. 54 percent of Germans, according to research by Eurobarometer, rates the perceived independence of judges as ‘reasonably good’, and 15 percent as ‘very good’.

Duration of Trials

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Source: Council of Europe Commission for the Evaluation of the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), 2014 (data based on proceedings at first instance)
The prisons of 7 Member States out of 28 have a number of inmates exceeding their maximum capacity

Justice means also enforcement of the sentence, safeguarding the dignity of the person at the same time. Overcrowding, lack of beds and rights, prisoners who commit suicide. The picture of European prisons captures very different contexts. In the Netherlands, the number of inmates is so lower than the maximum capacity of prisons that the government has decided to close some of the 77 prisons of the state; in Sweden, the rule of open doors is applied in most prisons and the presence of detainees is constantly decreasing.

Nothing to do with Hungary, where 18,208 inmates are distributed in only 33 prison facilities that can accommodate 13,771 persons. Overcrowding is a problem that has always afflicted our prison system, but the situation has improved. The situation in France is worse than here, with data almost doubled in the past decade; in the United Kingdom, one of the major problems is represented by suicides of inmates; and then Belgium, Cyprus, Portugal.

Prison Overcrowding

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Source: European Council
France is the forerunner in the field of Jus Soli, having approved a law establishing it back in 1551

Human dignity is a value for justice, and being a European citizen means having rights and duties aimed at living together. One can acquire the status of citizen by blood or birth. In Europe, however, there is no unambiguous legislation, and every State legislate for itself, tempering a principle with another. In Italy, one can become citizen after living in the territory without any interruption since birth up to the 18th birthday: a rule that excludes the majority of foreigners. The naturalization procedure is discretionary and depends also on the household income. To remove numerous forms of discrimination, affecting about one million people, the Chamber of Deputies approved a law on citizenship, which is now embroiled at the Senate, stopped there for nearly 500 days. In Europe, there are the restrictive legislations of countries like Cyprus, where there is no possibility to become citizens through the ius soli, or Lithuania, where restrictions apply also to children born orphans in the national territory, up to Germany where the ius soli is recognized for second and third generations according to certain requirements of the parents, until the total inclusion for second generations in France.

Acquisition of citizenship

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Source: Elaboration by Espresso, on the basis of the Eudo Citinzeship Observatory index (2016)

Employment-foreign population ratio