The 2021 Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe

The CEELI Institute was honored to once again support the organization of the Annual Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe, this year hosted in Bled and Ljubljana by the Supreme Court of Slovenia, in October. This Conference was originally launched in Prague, at the Institute, over a decade ago, with the personal support of US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Conference is now a self-sustaining initiative that meets annually, and provides an opportunity for the region’s Chief Justices to discuss common challenges, share ideas, and work towards solutions. The CEELI Institute remains the only non-governmental organization invited to participate in the Conference. We recognize that the judicial philosophies of the participating countries differ in significant and substantial ways, yet ultimately, we continue to support this important event in the interest of maintaining and promoting dialogue among the region’s courts on the most pressing issues confronting the judiciaries today. This year’s conference was supported by a grant to the CEELI Institute from the C.S. Mott Foundation.

Front and center among this year’s discussions were the ongoing challenges to judicial independence that continue to be seen and felt across the region. This included the evolving role of Judicial Councils as a not-always positive factor impacting that independence. Attention was also given to the ways in which the region’s courts have responded to the pandemic and maintained operations in spite of constraints that it has imposed.

The Conference continues to rotate between member states, and each year is hosted by a Chief Justice from a different country. Conferences over the past several years have been hosted by the Republic of Georgia (2014), Croatia (2015), Serbia (2016), Hungary (2017), Lithuania (2019), and Azerbaijan (2020).

Among the achievements of the Conference has been the promulgation of the Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, known now as the Brijuni Statement (after the seaside town in Croatia where the 2015 Conference was held). The Brijuni Statement is modeled after a similar effort undertaken by the Conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific, which resulted in the adoption of the Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary published in 1995. The Brijuni Statement is a reaffirmation of a long-held and shared belief amongst its signatories in judicial independence and the obligation to uphold the rule of law.

The CEELI Institute is gratified to be able to support the publication and distribution of the Brijuni Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, and the Statement is available on the CEELI Institute’s website in most languages of the region. It joins other useful legal instruments addressing judicial independence. judicial independence.

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