The citizens of Europe need legal assistance not only in the event that a legal dispute arises, but also before preventively for the consensual and legal secure organisation of their legal relationships. The Member states therefore provide their citizens with an efficient system of preventive justice. This guarantees every citizen an affordable and local access to justice in important matters.
Especially for the cross-border cases that are increasing Europe-wide (e.g. bi-national marriages or cross-border succession cases) such a system turns out to be beneficial and efficient, since a privately autonomous conception in these legally very complicated cases implies the need for previous consultation. The intervention into the scope for arrangements of the parties concerned, tied to the system of preventive justice, is of a procedural nature. But as regards content, preventive justice aims at legally secure verbalization and implementation of the parties’ intentions. Preventive justice therefore serves the freedom of contract and can consequently make an important contribution to the further integration of the European legal and economic area. In addition, however, European legislation can also fall back on the institutional and procedural framework in order to achieve consumer protection.
The responsible bodies of the Member states have been cooperating for a long time for the benefit of the citizens on a cross-border scale, whether it is the frame of the European Judicial Network for Civil and Commercial Law (EJN; http://ec.europa.eu/civiljustice/index_en.htm), or the frame of the European Notarial Network (ENN; http://www.enn-rne.eu/, but see also the multilingual information site for citizens and legal practitioners on inheritance law launched by the European notariat: http://www.successions-europe.eu , soon followed by a multilingual information site on matrimonial property regimes of spouses and registered partners).
By increasingly harmonising the different rules on international competence of the bodies of preventive justice and the law applicable, European legislation makes an essential contribution to the regulation and handling of cross-border cases of preventive justice and along with it, the promotion of free movement of citizens within the EU territory. For example, currently the proposal for a so-called regulation on the law of succession (COM (2009) 154 final, of October 14th, 2009) is being discussed in Brussels. It makes provisions for introducing a standardized so-called certificate of succession throughout the European Union, which could, according to the existing certificates of the Member states, serve as evidence of the status as heir resp. as executor of an estate. The European certificate of succession is to be issued by the respective body of preventive justice that each Member state provides according to its sovereign right to organise (court, notary, etc.). In this sense, the planned European certificate of succession is splendid evidence of how the national systems of preventive justice can be coordinated on a European level for the benefit of the citizens, without disregarding particular features of the respective legal system, with regard to competence and procedure.