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Interview mit CCBE-Präsident James MacGuill

Die Präsidentschaft im CCBE (Rat der europäischen Anwaltschaften) wechselt jährlich. 2022 ist der irische Rechtsanwalt und Notar James MacGuill an der Reihe, der bereits seit 2008 in der europäischen Interessenvertretung der Rechtsanwälte engagiert ist. Er spricht über die justiziellen Entwicklungen auf dem europäischen Parkett und die Stärke der europäischen Gemeinschaft trotz stark divergierender Meinungen. Hier lesen Sie die englische Originalfassung des Interviews, die deutsche Übersetzung finden Sie im Anwaltsblatt, Heft 1/2022 auf S 36 ff.

At the European level, many issues important to the legal profession are currently being discussed (e.g. rule of law, independence of supervision in money laundering matters, de-encryption and the associated threat to the principle of confidentiality). What are the most important topics for the year of your presidency?

As a criminal lawyer I am acutely aware of how external events can influence both the pace and content of EU legislative initiatives. We all remember how the European Arrest Warrant started life as an own initiative report of an individual MEP Graham Watson adopted by parliament on 5th September 2001 calling for the introduction of such a measure. In the ordinary course it would have been subject to rigorous scrutiny to eradicate many of the serious shortcomings that we have had to deal with ever since. However the 9/11 attacks on the USA a matter of days later changed the political climate and the measure met with little resistance.

The CCBE therefore is on high alert in relation to the danger that a similar lack of scrutiny will apply to the current Anti-Money Laundering Package in the light of the Pandora papers issue. We are especially concerned that the proposed overarching Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) supervision is both unacceptable in its interference with the independence of the Bars and unnecessary in the context of our collective experience and will merely impose an unjustifiable additional layer of expense on our members. Expressing those concerns in order to protect our members is clearly a major priority and we are fortunate indeed that the chair of our Anti-Money Laundering Committee is our esteemed Austrian colleague Dr. Rupert Manhart. We aim to capitalise on our reputation for expert, honest but constructive criticism to demonstrate the deficiencies of the current proposal.

Are there other activities you could tell us about?

A core value of the CCBE is to promote and defend where necessary the rule of law. The threats can be well-known and attract worldwide headlines such as the dangers our colleagues in Afghanistan are exposed to. They can attract concern on the part of the Commission and the Parliament as evidenced by recent events in Poland and Hungary. They might appear almost invisible such as threats to lawyer client confidentiality as evidenced by recent developments in Germany and France. In all of these cases the CCBE must be the voice of independent Bars and Law Societies and through them individual practitioners to safeguard the rule of law in the interests of our collective clients and of society in general.

Another example of an external event which might shape the future of EU legislation is the dramatic increase of the use of technological support brought about in the Covid pandemic. Each of us has benefited in one way or another from those advances and our legal world will never be the same again. However, and without being negative, we must be vigilant to ensure that progress in the field of digitalisation of justice and artificial intelligence does not come with any unacceptable diminution in the quality of justice. The CCBE has made its position perfectly clear in position papers on the proposed regulation on the Artificial Intelligence Act and on the Digitalisation of Judicial Cross-border Proceedings. It is likely that each of these measures will pose a significant challenge to us in the course of the coming year.

The CCBE has always followed developments in criminal law very closely. What projects are currently in the pipeline?

That concept is now a reality and the challenge for us all will be to ensure that the new powers are exercised in a proportionate and just way. The voices of Bars and Law Societies are essential in protecting our shared values and critically in ensuring that our colleagues have access to training and other resources to cope with this new legal framework. We are particularly pleased that Commissioner Didier Reynders has indicated his support for additional resources to be provided towards the training of lawyers and we expect to be liaising closely with him in respect of not only of the EPPO but other training needs. In point of fact he first discussed this with him when he met the CCBE Presidency in Vienna! Our position is set out in our CCBE comments.

Last but not least we will be following up on the new pact of migration and asylum as set out in our position paper and as demonstrated in the most concrete possible fashion by the excellent work of European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) which provide free, independent legal assistance to asylum seekers in Greece.

Different CCBE member organisations hold different opinions. How do you manage to bring them all together and speak with a strong voice in Europe?

Was there ever a gathering of lawyers, let alone lawmakers that were all of the same opinion? Diversity is our strength. Although we come from different national and legal traditions there is more in common than divides us. That breadth of experience correctly utilised promotes good balanced decision making. We have a very robust process for developing CCBE positions. It includes the initial analysis by our expert committees whose guidance is then debated before our Standing Committee and Plenary Sessions comprising the entire membership. Depending on the proposal under consideration there are different levels of safeguards in terms of qualified majority voting. In point of fact however, and as one would expect in a healthy organisation, our members strive to achieve a position where the proposal is acceptable to all and every effort is devoted to achieve a consensus that we all can support. Where a consensus is not possible, we nonetheless have a very strong tradition of respecting the views of the minority given that we are all motivated by the same considerations and we merely express them in different ways. Refreshingly it is often the case that a proposal that is almost accepted is at the very last moment subject to an otherwise unforeseen critical analysis. I am pleased to say that there is always scope for fundamental reconsideration where necessary.

What would you like to achieve during your Presidency?

In my sporting days I played rugby, a classic team sport where everyone had a part to play and no individual could thrive without the support of the others. The CCBE is very similar and I see my responsibility as being to guide the team rather than to have personal objectives. I know from our delegations that there are immense challenges for our Bars and Law Societies in dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic. Given the common source of those challenges it is particularly opportune that the CCBE can take a lead in assisting our members with the most up-to-date comparative information as to how challenges have been met in all of our jurisdictions. It is not of course to say that what is an appropriate solution in one jurisdiction will work in another but much time can be saved in not reinventing the wheel where there is already comparative experience to learn from.

Sticking with the comparison of sports: What are your main “coaching-points” as a manager?

Part of that process is of course to be vigilant against any erosion of fundamental rights that might be tempting as a measure of expediency to any given government. We will of course support our member Bars where challenges of that kind arise for them. That is not to say however that we will not embrace the positive developments that our shared Covid experience brings including the increased use of technology and communication platforms. From the point of view of the CCBE it is vital that we return to in-person meetings to foster the close personal relationships that make for good collective decision-making. There will always be a place for virtual meetings but we know that virtual meetings work best when the participants have personal familiarity. Virtual meetings also hold the attraction that more people can be involved with less inconvenience and expense and a challenge for 2022 will be to identify the optimum mix of in-person and virtual meeting. 2022 is also a year when our individual Bars and Law Societies, and individual practitioners and practices will be re-evaluating priorities. I would hope that the CCBE will similarly recalibrate to ensure that our fabulous assets being the expertise of our member Bars and Law Societies and professional staff are applied to maximum effect in the areas of greatest importance.

Die Commission de Conseil des Barreaux européens (CCBE – Rat der europäischen Anwaltschaften) wurde 1960 mit Sitz in Brüssel gegründet. Sie ist die Verbindung der nationalen Anwaltschaften der 27 EU-Staaten, 3 EWR-Länder und der Schweiz, weitere Staaten sind assoziiert. Weitere Informationen: ccbe.eu