Response to the European Council of Ministers' Initiative for the Mutual Recognition of Financial Penalties (2001/C 278/06)
Publication date: 20 May 2002
The Eurocouncil of the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) and FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile), takes seriously its role as representative of the interests of more than 43 million motorists in the European Union, citizens who are members of our national motoring and touring clubs. We have grave doubts concerning the timeliness and viability of introducing the mutual recognition of financial penalties specifically with regard to traffic fines as set out in "Initiative of the United Kingdom, the French Republic and the Kingdom of Sweden with a view to adopting a Council Framework Decision on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties" (2001/C 278/06).
Mutual recognition requires knowledge of the legal systems of other Member States and mutual trust in the operation of their legal systems. However, the motoring organisations of Europe believe that the Council of Ministers proposal is premature because Member States still do not possess sufficient knowledge of the legal systems of other Members States. There are still huge and as yet not fully understood differences across the member States with regard to traffic law, procedural and constitutional law. Also many motorists do not trust the operation of the legal system in some Member States. We further believe it would be prejudicial to the free movement of people and goods in the European Union because it could deter many people from circulating outside their state of residence.
It is for these reasons that we have opposed the inclusion of motoring offences in the Council of Ministers proposals for mutual recognition of financial penalties.
Currently across the European Union, many millions of motorists driving in other member states face a range of difficulties, and very often injustice:
- different traffic laws, customs and practices that can be contravened in innocence, rather than through intent
- foreign motorists are frequently targeted for "on-the-spot fines" with no access to judicial processes
- unfamiliar judicial processes, foreign language difficulties and inadequate legal representation lead many motorists perceive that they do not get justice in some member states
Much more needs to be known about these issues before penalties for relatively minor motoring offences are included in the draft Council Decision. There should be a detailed research undertaken, proposals brought forward for a review of road traffic laws and penalties, and proposals for much more consistent and fair standards of traffic policing and judicial processes for motoring offences across the European Union.
The motoring and touring organisations of Europe, want to work with the European Union on these issues to ensure that impartial law and order prevails justly. For mutual recognition to be accepted by motorists it must preceded by much greater Europe-wide uniformity in traffic laws and policing, penalties and judicial processes.