The ECBA has always used positive engagement as the primary strategy to promote defence rights in Europe, and it is therefore only natural that Stockholm, Sweden was chosen as the venue for our Autumn Conference of 2009.

Swedish presidency of the EU with its aim to revive the process of developing the standards of protection of suspected and accused persons in criminal pro-ceedings provides new hope for defence practitioners that their voice will finally be heard, and real progress is in sight. In addition to Stockholm being politically important to the ECBA, it was also appropriate for us to come to Scandinavia for the first time because it was only last year that the first members from Sweden and Finland joined the ECBA, and there is certainly a lot of work to be done to involve more colleagues from the Nordic countries in the activities of the association. Accordingly, there was more than one good reason to hold our Autumn Conference "The future of citizen's rights in criminal proceedings in the EU" in the Swedish capital.The conference was made possible thanks to the support of the Swedish Bar Association. The magnificent building of Sveriges Advokatsamfund was the ideal location for the traditional cocktail reception with welcome addresses by Mr Tomas Nilsson, President of the Swedish Bar Association, and Prof Dr Holger Matt, Chairman of the ECBA.

The conference programme was opened by Ms Beatrice Ask, Swedish Minister of Justice. She gave a very honest and straightforward speech about the position and ideas of the Swedish Presidency concerning defence rights in Europe. According to Ms Ask, failure to grant rights means failure of democracy, and the cornerstone of mutual recognition in criminal proceedings, i.e. mutual trust, is currently only on paper. Such was the sincerity of the minister's words that it is no wonder Dr Holger Matt later mentioned in his speech that we need more ministers like the Swedish Minister of Justice. The minister went on to describe how Sweden considers common rules in criminal proceedings as one of the priorities of its presidency, and how the right-by-right approach elaborated in the roadmap is the most appropriate way to move forward in this area. Ms Ask also mentioned more specific initiatives of the Swedish presidency, such as the launch of new web portal with information on justice systems of EU member states, due in December 2009, as well as training programmes for police officers, prosecutors, and judges.

Prof Dr Holger Matt emphasised in his introduction that for the first time since the failure of politicians 2 years ago, we now have a real chance of progress. He stressed that although the ECBA is not completely happy with the roadmap, we support it politically and hope that input from practitioners will help to improve the intended measures. Dr Matt was especially critical of the Commission's official communication on the Stockholm programme, which only addressed procedural safeguards in one paragraph, and the fact that politicians have once again failed to recognise one extremely important right: the right to silence. Nevertheless, he went on to say that the ECBA is not only criticising, we are actively working on the issues. Currently the ECBA is involved in 3 EU-funded projects on the subject of defence rights.
Ms Signe Öhman from the Swedish Ministry of Justice gave an overview of how Sweden decided to proceed with the issue of procedural safeguards from the moment the previous proposal collapsed in the Council in June 2007. Bearing in mind how delicate some of the issues were for the Member States, and acknowledging that another failure was not an option, Sweden took a long term right-by-right approach involving six measures in the road map. She said that member states' support for this strategy has exceeded expectations, and expressed hope that the Council will agree on the roadmap on October 23 this year.
Our friend from the European Commission, Ms Caroline Morgan, started her contribution with a remark that if we had dealt with ministers like Ms Ask, we would have succeeded a long time ago. She stressed that the Commission is still committed to procedural rights, and intends to promote creating a European judicial culture involving a moral duty to have high standards. Ms Morgan agreed that the Swedish presidency's step-by-step approach is good and in fact the only way forward. Starting with the issues of translation and interpretation is logical as they are the least controversial. More complicated measures like legal aid will come to the table when (hopefully) the Lisbon treaty is in force. She also emphasised that the combination of legislation and (non-binding) best practices documents was the best way to promote high standards. She men¬tioned, however, that some Member States still oppose even a non-binding resolution.

Ms Liese Katschinka from the International Federation of Translators (FIT) provided an overview of the activities of FIT, and the EULITA project. She went on to comment on a Draft Proposal for a Framework Decision on Translation and Interpretation, and stressed especially the importance of complete rendering in court interpretation. A discussion followed concerning several aspects of interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. During the discussion, Dr Matt announced the news that 55 percent of Irish voters have supported the Lisbon treaty, which was received by applause.
Ms Natasha Kazatchkine from Amnesty International's Brussels office expressed a view that the issue of procedural safeguards is a test of the EU's credibility in the eyes of other nations, because the EU is often critical of the human rights situation in some countries, and should therefore pay more attention to the standards applied within the union.

Mr Ilias Anagnostopoulos, Chair of CCBE Criminal Law Committee, focused on the development of the mutual recognition principle, and how the application of it in criminal law resulted in a regrettable lack of safeguards. He declared that Europe has become a paradise for prosecutors, and in doing so, he voiced the concern of the whole audience. He also expressed the fear that although the right-by-right approach of the Swedish presidency is realistic, progress is likely to fail as soon as a couple of the less controversial measures have been adopted.

The speeches were followed by reports on the ECBA's projects and working groups. Mr Jonathan Mitchell gave an overview of the ongoing cross-border legal aid project, handled jointly by ECBA and CCBE. Prof Dr Richard Soyer described the pre-trial emergency legal aid project involving Austria, Germany, Slovenia, and Croatia. The final report of this project will be presented in October 2010 in Ljubljana. Peter Engels presented the results of the working group on money-laundering, the aim of which is to launch an information portal at the next ECBA conference in Antwerp. Dr Kai Hart-Hönig briefed the audience on the activities of the anti-trust working group, and Mr Scott Crosby introduced the New Journal of European Criminal Law.

Roger Smith from JUSTICE, and Anna Ogorodova from Open Society Justice Initiative presented preliminary results of the EU-funded project called "Effective Criminal Defence Rights in Europe". The project analyses defence rights in 8 EU countries and Turkey, and early findings reveal a great degree of variance in the way rights are dealt with in different countries.
The panel chaired by Mr Vincent Asselineau focused on practical issues encountered by defence practitioners throughout Europe with contributions from Mr Bertil Dahl and Ms Ghita Hadding Wiberg from Sweden, Saulius Juzokonis from Lithuania, Jaanus Tehver from Estonia, and Saulvedis Varpins from Latvia.

The final section of the conference programme was traditionally devoted to recent developments and pro¬posed reforms affecting the legal profession in the EU. Contributions by Vincent Asselineau from France, Neil Blundell from the UK, Oliver Kipper from Germany, Diederik Van Omme from the Netherlands, Elmar Kresbach from Austria, and Jaanus Tehver from Estonia were greeted with great interest.

Dinner at Restaurant Tender was a perfect finale for two exciting days in Stockholm.