Access to Legislation in Europe: Overview and Future Trends

Martynas Mockus

Abstract


The article analyses problems facing electronic legislation development (especially legislation processes of publishing acts) in EU and EFTA member countries.
All European countries were publishing acts officially on paper until the end of year 2000. The way of publishing acts officially was the same in all Europe countries, except that some counties had one “official journal” in which legal acts and other official documents and legal notices were published, and other countries had separate legal gazettes for acts publishing and an official gazette for publishing other official documents and legal notices.
At the beginning of 2001 Norway started to publish acts officially in digital form, and only 12-20 times a year paper editions to present the statutes and regulations enacted since the publication of the previous issue are published. In 2002 Estonia decided to finish the publishing of paper editions, and started to publish acts only electronically. Till 2011 more than 10 European countries started to publish acts officially in digital format.
Author discusses the advantages, principles, and legitimate expectation of electronic legislation. For future electronic legislation information systems developments the following principles should be a guide: broad/universal and equal access to legislation, reliability of the means of publicity, integrity of information, easy access to the requisite information. The advantages of digital act forms, and internet based publications are instantaneous outreach to the public, free of charge, information easily accessible and retrievable, voluminous technical acts easier to handle, no printing costs, more environmentally-friendly, more and more people use ICT to seek information, no time constraints to the availability of data, legal certainty will be granted.
The author thinks that before creating future digital legislation information systems, some procedures shall be done. If we want to have pan-European information systems of legislation, EU should adopt standards for better information exchange, and for legislation process unification. The author thinks that non-consolidated versions of law acts are old fashioned, and are not suitable for modern digital legislation. Countries should change procedures of legislation, only consolidated versions of acts would be adopted, used and officially recognized.
The article talks about technical issues of digital legislation information systems, legal XML, semantic search, Web 2.0. (for example: user comments) and Web 3.0. (for example: user rankings, other possible search) and artificial intelligence technologies shall be used.
Author focus also is on an interesting project in Sweden—lagen.nu. It is a unique practice, based on the same idea like Wikipedia: cost free, users make content, open source software and the most user friendly service available at the moment in legislation services. Some experience could be taken in to government projects, for example involving users to create better content and better legislation.

Keywords


legislation; electronic legislation; Pan-European information systems

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