03 March 2004

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Maltese lawyers not prepared for EU accession

The Chamber of Advocates is concerned about the state of preparedness of Maltese lawyers for EU accession, The Malta Financial and Business Times has learned.
A sense of worry was already expressed by Secretary General of the Council of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Union (CCBE) Jonathon Goldsmith who warned that despite extensive preparation, acceding to the European Union is likely to prove a great shock for lawyers in the 10 countries waiting to do so.
Dr Robert G Mangion, LL.D., the President of Chamber of Advocates, confirmed the fear and told The Malta Financial and Business Times: “The Chamber is concerned that many Maltese lawyers are not sufficiently prepared for EU accession. We express concern simply because EU membership represents the single largest overhaul of our legal system over the past two centuries.”
Goldsmith said “We have worked hard letting lawyers know the importance EU Directives relating to lawyers as their governments will have to adopt them by 1 May 2004. I don’t think it has properly hit them yet. Wherever you look there is material that affects the regulatory state of the profession. I assume it is a shock to join the EU."
The CCBE chief went on to explain that a number of new legislative measures likely to affect lawyers in the European Union will need to be absorbed by the legal communities in the ten new member states.
These will include the Framework Services Directive (which will set how services should be offered within the EU), and the result of a currently ongoing dispute over privilege for in-house lawyers.
Mangion does not believe the lawyers themselves are to blame for their state of unreadiness and said: “One cannot say that the legal profession is to blame for this state of affairs. We feel that the whole issue of EU membership had become too politicised - unnecessarily so - such that everyone was uncertain on whether Malta would join. As a result, lawyers were reluctant to spend time preparing themselves for an event which remained uncertain. By the time the matter was finally settled, time had virtually run out.”
Asked which areas lawyers should be concentrating on Dr Mangion said “Lawyers should first make sure that they are fully conversant with the principles of EU law and how the EU works and that they are also aware of how the EU legal system will dove-tail with the Maltese legal system. “Beyond that, lawyers should then focus on their specific areas of specialisation. More often than not you will find that the EU impacts most areas of specialisation and in these areas our laws have been changed to be brought in line with EU laws.
The problem is not the laws themselves, which have been virtually brought in line with EU law, but Mangion insisted lawyers will have to keep updating themselves with changes. “EU membership will bring with it one simple reality for lawyers - namely that lawyers too - like all other professions - must engage in an ongoing process of continued training. Lawyers who fail to keep abreast of changes and developments will only do so at their own expense.”
The Chamber of Advocates is doing its bit: “The Chamber has in the past already held conferences and seminars to help the legal profession learn more about the EU. And indeed, these initiatives were very successful.
“On the 8 and 9 of March we intend to hold another major two-day conference entitled ‘Applying European Union Law in Maltese Courts.’ It is being organised by the Chamber thanks to the support of the Judicial Studies Committee and the British High Commission and will involve top practitioners from the EU. The Chamber will not stop here. As I said, we are firmly committed to continued training.”
Malta along with Lithuania and Latvia were the last of the accession states to become members of the CCBE, and Dr Mangion said: “The Council of the Bars and Law Societies of the European Union has already approved our application to join as full members on May 1 2004. The Chamber is in the process of adopting CCBE's code of professional ethics in respect of cross-border practice and thereafter our membership will be complete.”
Asked what progress was being made on the Framework Services Directive (which will set out how services should be offered within the EU), and the dispute over privilege for in-house lawyers, Mangion told The Malta Financial and Business Times: “The Chamber, through its international secretary, is currently working on this in close connection with the CCBE secretariat which is assisting us in these matters.”

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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