Digitalization of the judiciary is key to creating a favorable business environment, and education is a prerequisite for the success of this process.
The conference “Digitalization and Justice”, organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Serbia (AmCham), addressed several important topics. These included how judicial practice views digitization in public administration and the economy, to what extent the judiciary leverages digitization to enhance its own efficiency, the digitization process in European Union member states, and the current stage of eCourt implementation in Serbia. The event featured prominent participants, including Stefan Lazarević, President of AmCham; Mihailo Jovanović, Minister of Information and Telecommunications; Livija Pavićević, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice; Zorana Delibašić, President of the High Council of the Judiciary; Nenad Vujić, Director of the Judicial Academy; and high-ranking representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, along with distinguished guests from the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration of the Republic of Croatia.
Stefan Lazarevic, AmCham President , highlighted the findings of AmCham’s 11-year research, revealing that improving the efficiency of the judiciary has become one of the top two reforms considered necessary by the private sector to enhance the business climate in Serbia over the last six years. Lazarević pointed out that last year, a significant 81% of AmCham members identified the duration of court proceedings as a pressing issue to address. Additionally, nearly half of the membership believed that enabling electronic communication with judicial authorities could significantly enhance efficiency and transparency while reducing costs in court proceedings. Lazarević emphasized, “Digitalization is undoubtedly a priority for the Government, and the digitalization of the judiciary plays a pivotal role in further improving the business climate and creating a more efficient administration in Serbia.” He also noted that the Law on Electronic Documents was adopted in 2017, but its application in administration still raises concerns.
An important question remains regarding how the courts interpret the validity of electronically generated documents and signatures, as well as electronic delivery. On a positive note, digitization efforts within the judiciary have seen successful beginnings in certain courts, such as the Administrative Court, and in specific procedures like execution. Lazarevic expressed the belief that Serbia should continue this process across various procedures and instances.”
“In the process of digitizing the judiciary, the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications plays a crucial role. Mihailo Jovanović, the Minister of Information and Telecommunications, stated, “The Government of the Republic of Serbia continues its digitization efforts across all sectors. Within the judiciary, we are dedicated to developing platforms and services that will facilitate easier access to judicial bodies, streamline procedures, and promote digital transformation within these bodies.” He also underscored the significant role played by the American Chamber of Commerce in Serbia, which has long been a strong advocate for electronic commerce, leading initiatives that enhance the capabilities of public administration and actively contributing to regulatory changes that promote electronic governance and business.
During the opening address, Livija Pavićević, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, presented various projects related to digitization that the Ministry of Justice has already implemented or has in progress, along with its plans for the upcoming period. She encouraged AmCham members to lend their support in shaping the procedural and legal framework for the digitization of judicial operations.
What is the European Union’s experience in this regard?
The digitization of court proceedings is widely embraced by EU countries, with 18 out of 27 EU member states having digitized the initiation of court proceedings, 19 handling the submission of documents to the court electronically, 16 facilitating the electronic delivery of court documents (especially verdicts) to the involved parties, and 14 countries adopting electronic initiation of enforcement proceedings.
Veronika Pogačić from the Ministry of Justice and Administration of the Republic of Croatia shared insights from Croatia’s experience in introducing mandatory electronic communication. She noted that the process began in 2018, initially targeting lawyers and bailiffs. The transition to mandatory electronic communication was relatively smooth, possibly because business associations, lawyers, and executors were well-informed about the plans and deadlines, and thus knew what to expect. An important lesson drawn from their experience is the need to carefully coordinate changes in the legislative framework with the projects accompanying the rollout of a comprehensive digital court system. As a result of digitization, court proceedings in Croatia were shortened by 80 days, and the judiciary’s efficiency increased by 112% in 2022. This improvement indicates that digitization is also helping clear backlogged cases.”
Judicial Academy and the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications – Education of judges in the field of eGovernment and digital business.
Education plays a crucial role in the success of this reform. During the conference, an agreement was signed between the Judicial Academy and the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications. This agreement will facilitate the initial and ongoing education of judges in all areas of regulation related to e-government and digital business. It will also provide a broader understanding of the operation, reliability, and security of electronic signatures and file delivery methods. This process is of utmost importance for the economy because the digitalization of internal processes, communication, and emerging trends, such as remote work, necessitates a collective response from both businesses and the government.”