e-CODEX

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Introduction

​In an increasingly digital society, with an estimated 10 million people in the EU involved in cross-border civil and criminal litigation, and considering the complex variety of the different legal systems across EU Member States, simplifying and facilitating cross-border judicial cooperation is crucial to ensure the effective access of citizens and businesses to justice.

Creating a more just and secure Europe is one of the priorities of the European Commission and fundamental to achieving a true Single Market. Access to justice should not be discouraged by the complex variety of our different legal systems.

Interlinking existing domestic public services by exposing them to a cross-border dimension. e-CODEX enables and supports public administrations, legal practitioners and international organisations in the area of Justice to do exactly that. By deploying the national judicial procedures and their supporting IT implementations in the context of established legal base at EU lever, easy access to Justice is enabled.

By adopting the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), e-CODEX fully respects the principles and strategic policies of the European Union. The goal of e-CODEX is to enable domestic public services in the area of justice to be exposed to a cross-border dimension. By doing so, European public services are created reusing the existing implementation of the collaborating partners and their digital autonomy is ensured. 

Only at common level, e-CODEX offers interoperability building blocks that:

  • offer a European digital infrastructure for secure cross border communication in the field of justice
  • provide easy access to cross-border justice for citizens, business and legal professionals all over Europe
  • support the overcoming of legal boundaries, making Europeans feel safer and legally protected.

eu-LISA will be responsible, for the technical development and maintenance of e-CODEX, bug fixing, updates, support, the development of new features in those building blocks in order to respond to emerging requirements, as well as the coordination of testing activities.

Have a look at the e-CODEX YouTube Chanel:

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The e-CODEX Regulation

The European Parliament and the Council of Europe adopted REGULATION (EU) 2022/850 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 30 May 2022 on a computerised system for the cross-border electronic exchange of data in the area of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters (e-CODEX system), and amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1726.

This regulation aims at enabling access to justice for citizens and legal businesses through cross-border electronic exchange of data in the area of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters.

From the e-CODEX Regulation to a functional system

e-CODEX was built upon several principles:

  • The Tallinn Declaration on e-Government: was signed on the 6 October 2017 by all the Member States and EFTA States to express their commitment to the modernization of public administrations that will provide EU citizens and businesses with user-friendly, borderless digital public services. 

  • The European e-Justice Strategy: is a publication by the European Commission from 30 May 2008 aiming at facilitating access to information, e-communication in the field of justice and implementing interoperability (i.e., the ability of information communication technology systems and of the business processes to exchange data and to enable the sharing of information[1]). One of the main achievements of the European e-Justice Strategy is to facilitate access to justice by citizens and businesses across Europe and enhance judicial co-operation, on the basis of existing legal instruments.

  • In order to interlink public service into cross-border business collaborations, the e-CODEX Regulation caters for the creation of Digital Procedural Standards (DPS). Such DPS describes the conduct of the cross-border procedure, complying with the respective legal instruments at EU level and taking into account the specifics of national implementation of these public services. Where the Business Collaboration design articulates the context, purpose and sequential steps of the procedure, the message structures define the exact content of each individual step in the information exchange. The message structures are based on a shared EU e-Justice Core Vocabulary, ensuring a consistent and sustainable structure and definition of semantic terms used across different DPSs. This enables the e-CODEX participants to easily reuse the mapping of EU Vocabulary to respective national vocabularies.

eu-LISA supports collaboration partners in defining the Digital Procedural Standards and will ensure both compliance with e-CODEX Regulation requirements and seamless integration of existing national public services. For each individual legal instrument, a tailored Digital Procedural Standard can be created. Once an initiative for the creation of a DPS is taken, practitioners of the entities involved in the actual day-to-day execution of the cross-border business collaboration will be invited to co-create the DPS. Please contact your representative in the eu-LISA e-CODEX governance bodies: the e-CODEX Advisory Group or the e-CODEX Programme Management Board, or contact eu-LISA’s e-CODEX team by email.

The versions of the Digital Procedural Standards below are the result of work handed over from Me-CODEX III consortium to eu-LISA. Both DPSs are currently subject to change by Comitology Committee procedure.

A quick overview of the e-CODEX instruments to build a functional system:

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e-CODEX technical infrastructure

e-CODEX Building Blocks

As the e-CODEX standard sets out some requirements that must be adhered to when connecting to other participants in use-cases, the described building blocks are optional as long as those standards are fulfilled and the technical understanding between e-CODEX participants remains stable.

A rough overview on the decentralised e-CODEX network architecture:


Gateway

The Gateway within e-CODEX is the building block that is responsible for the communication between participants of e-CODEX use cases.

Whereas it is defined in e-CODEX that any gateway solution fulfilling those requirements mentioned above can be used, e-CODEX implemented its own gateway solution. This gateway is the DOMIBUS gateway[2] which is now under maintenance of the CEF programme of the European Commission.

More information regarding the Domibus Gateway, its roadmap, the latest versions and alternative products can be found on CEF's Domibus Website.

The connection of e-CODEX participants, at gateway level, is also called e-Delivery.

Connector

The domibusConnector is developed and maintained by eu-LISA. It is a linking component to connect national use-case specific applications to the generic messaging standards of the gateway.

According to its particular settings, each e-CODEX participant must perform some adaptations to the messages. The domibusConnector provided by e-CODEX contains a generic set of modules which aims to provide the common functionality which is needed by every participant and every e-CODEX use-case.

The parts specific to each participant will need some specific and dedicated implementation which is to be done on national level. There may be several national backend applications behind the domibusConnector depending on the national structure (different use-cases are handled by different applications).

The domibusConnector implements two workflows, one for sending messages from the national backend system to the Gateway (outgoing workflow) and the other one for receiving messages from the Gateway and forwarding them to the national backend system (incoming workflow).

More details on the features of the domibusConnector and supporting products can be seen here.

For required certificates, key- and trust stores in the e-Codex environment consult this document: Required certificates, key- and truststores in the e-Codex environment

Domestic back-end applications

Domestic back-end applications are national applications and interfaces developed by each Member State and used by participants. Then, these applications will be linked to the Connector in order to send messages to end-users from different Member States.  

Technical Overview

Read this article to get a basic understanding of the technical concept of the e-CODEX components.

e-CODEX Technical solutions

e-CODEX offers technical solutions for secure online cross-border communication in the field of justice. The technical infrastructure connects different legal systems and ensures fast access to justice past borders.

The technical components of e-CODEX are building blocks which can be seen as bridges connecting online judicial services and information across Europe. The technical infrastructure consists of a connector and a gateway. The installation of the gateway ensures a secured connection with a gateway in another Member State. The connector carries out the adaptations required for receiving encrypted data by the corresponding service provider in another Member State.

Secure electronic information exchange between existing national solutions is facilitated by an interoperability layer for electronic signatures. This validation tool recognizes a person's signature using a certificate issued in his or her home country. Using existing systems for the authentication of users adds reliability to electronic legal proceedings and helps avoid malicious use of e-Justice services.

The image below provides a general overview of the technical infrastructure of e-CODEX.


The technical infrastructure of e-CODEX connects different legal systems and ensures fast access to justice past borders.

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How to set-up an e-CODEX configuration

Technical preconditions for the installation

Download Guideline for the technical installation of e-CODEX to have all the information regarding the technical installation of e-CODEX.

Testing the e-CODEX configuration

Central Testing Platform (CTP)

Before going online with your e-CODEX environment, you should perform extensive tests. e-CODEX offers a Central Testing Platform (CTP) to support your testing activities. The e-CODEX CTP provides a full e-CODEX test environment and a Web Interface for sending and receiving test messages. 

Testing activities should follow the e-CODEX testing strategy. An example of the latest strategy is available upon a request.

  1. The future e-CODEX participants should start with the national tests:
    • Internal tests conducted by developers
    • Integration tests of components (Gateway and Connector),
    • Business tests of national service provider (producing a document and sending it to the national Gateway).
    • Mapping tests will be required if backend application uses other data structures or xml schemas than the e-CODEX ones.

  2. Once the national tests are completed, it is recommended to start testing with the Central Testing Platform (CTP) that provides a full e-CODEX test environment for sending and receiving test messages for EPO and ESC.
    Additional information regarding the features and processes of the CTP can be found here: The e-CODEX CTP

  3. After successfully completing tests with the CTP, participants should indicate their readiness to start basic connectivity tests with other participants. Once the connectivity tests are completed, participants are ready to start the end-to-end tests.
    As soon as the end-to-end tests are finalised with at least one piloting partner, testing partners can start tests with the e-Justice Portal. These tests are conducted on the same basis as tests with the piloting countries.

For testing purposes, the projects "e-CODEX Plus" and "EXEC" have created a general test guideline which can be found here: e-CODEX Plus Test Guideline

Contact

The eu-LISA e-CODEX team can be reached at: e-CODEX@eulisa.europa.eu

Footnotes:

[1] European e-Justice Strategy and Action Plan 2019-2023, updated on 12 June 2019. Source: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/EN/legal-content/summary/european-e-justice-strategy-and-action-plan-2019-2023.html

[2] Official site: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-building-blocks/sites/display/DIGITAL/Domibus