Friday 26 December 2008

Decision on the legal value of the electronic version of the Official Journal of the European Union - updated

According to an EC document called "Future of the Official Journal", there will be, during the first quarter of 2009, a decision on the legal value of the electronic version of the Offical Journal of the European Union.

So far, only the printed version is official, and
for the medium term, ... the paper version [will be kept]
along with the electronic version as media having legal value.
The legality of the electronic version will be allowed by an official electronic signature that, according to the same EC document, will be available before mid-2009.

But maybe Ralf Grahn could also comment on this issue?!

(update) -> And indeed, here is Ralf's reaction. Thank you, Ralf!


Ralf Grahn said...


Thank you for your invitation to comment, although I feel more like a car driver or even passenger than an auto mechanic or assembler of cars. In other words, my experience of the Official Journal is that of a daily user, who tries to think about the needs of other EU citizens, not a technical expert.

My layman’s guess would be that in the long run we are either going to have an authentic digital Official Journal, with paper copies stored away as a back-up, which would mean that the signatures would be electronic, or the symbolic importance of signing is seen as great enough to attach the signatures to paper, but the digital OJ would be as official.

For a practitioner, the availability of the OJ (and its different language versions) on the web is crucial. Real time delivery, instead of snail mail is one evident advantage.

I already mentioned the language versions. Occasionally I use a number of then for comparison, but it would lead to storage problems and to expense to have to subscribe to several versions.

One of the problems facing historians, political scientists and lawyers is the lack of certain key pieces of legislation in currently used formats, like pdf. I hope that the EU would make available at least all the treaties since 1951 and a number of older crucial documents (like the White Book leading to the Single European Act and the intergovernmental conferences) in an accessible format and somewhere easy to find.

Even if the paper you referred to was quite technical, there were some heartening words about improved search facilities.

It is often hard to know if a certain feature is lacking or if I just lack the technical ‘nous’ to find desired items, but in my experience the Official Journal functions well if you already have the exact reference or a link leading to the exact act.

If not, the searches sometimes turn out to be laborious.

Consolidated versions of legislative acts are unofficial, but for users with practical aims legislation in force is a great help. I have found national legal portals in Sweden and Finland much easier to use in this respect, and the acts much easier to find than when I search on Eur-Lex.

These portals usually offer you options to go for the original act (or amending act), the legislation in force (continuously updated consolidated versions), the preparatory works (governemtn bills) and information about the legislative process including links to parliamentary committee documents etc., as well as secondary legislation like regulations.

All this is available with a few clicks, without time-consuming searches.

Evidently something needs to be done and could be done at EU level.

The EU could definitively learn from some of the member states, because accessible legislation for free is, in my humble opinion, a fundamental democratic right.

It is easy to see the multitude of European languages, even the 23 official EU languages, as a drain on resources. But my view is that this diversity is a European reality, and our common legislation has to be accessible to EU citizens in their own languages.

Julien, I wish you a fun and prosperous blogging year 2009!

Julien Frisch said...

Thank you Ralf, for this comment!

Since I only use this or similar databases for very specific and non-regular purposes, and since most of the work I do is not legal (although administrative and political), it is kind of hard to judge proposed changes in this field.

For you too, some nice holidays and a good start into 2009!

Brussels Blogger said...

I think one of the problems with the Official Journal are Calls for Proposals. There is only a short version published in the OJ, with a link to a Commission website. There is no clear trace of the details of calls and who is selected as Commission websites get restructured relatiuvely often and this info disappears often already after months.