Oikeus- ja työministeri Jari Lindströmin avauspuhe Access to Justice -seminaarissa 13.8.2015
Your Excellency Ms Wu Aiying,
distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
20 years of cooperation in judicial field
Sino-Finnish cooperation has a long history. It is said that a journey begins with a single step. The first step in this road was taken twenty years ago. The cooperation between the Ministries of Justice of China and Finland started in 1995, and it was formalised by an agreement that was signed by the Ministers of Justice. At that time our knowledge on the Chinese legal system was very limited. Now, after twenty years, we are much better informed how Chinese judicial system has developed. According to the agreement, the aim was to strengthen the legal systems and the idea of the state founded on the Rule of Law.
Ten years ago the celebrations commemorating the 10th anniversary of cooperation was held in Shanghai. Today is a significant day, since we mark here the 20th anniversary of our cooperation. I am quite confident that cooperation to this extent and with this degree of continuity is quite rare.
Despite changes in the governments, the framework for the cooperation has endured, and the aim of this cooperation has always been to strengthen the national legal systems, the principles of Rule of Law- and more specifically, to enhance access to justice, promote crime prevention and develop our judicial systems.
Nevertheless, work remains to be done to safeguard fundamental rights, and to improve human rights so that the development in the rule of law can be ensured also in the future.
The road of our cooperation has not been taken by Ministries alone. It has also involved judges, prison authorities, prosecutors, legal aid workers, universities and the Bar Associations as well as different provinces in China. One of the more vigorous forms of this cooperation has been the expert seminars, which have brought together senior Ministry officials as well as great number of other experts from both countries. The two sides have stressed as practical an approach as possible.
Actually, I would like to take this opportunity to express my warm appreciation to all the experts who have contributed to the discussions and the formulation of the development recommendations during these years.
Your Excellency, the co-operation between our two Ministries has throughout the years been marked by continuity and professionalism. We do have differences between our systems, but this approach has allowed for discussion even on complex and sensitive issues. As a result of the approach a number of development recommendations and proposals have been produced. I really hope that the ideas produced at different seminars will become integrated into the day-to-day operation of the legal system in our countries.
Seminar on Access to Justice
The main focus today is on the role and functions of lawyers and attorneys. I would like to emphasise that Access to justice is a universal and fundamental right that is protected by international instruments and constitutional provisions. The freedom of lawyers and attorneys at their work, as well as their independence, is one of the fundamental human rights.
In fact, the purpose of this particular cooperation is to produce specific recommendations for the improvement of the role and functions of attorneys at law and access to justice. I really hope that the ideas produced at the seminars here in Finland today, and later this year in China, will be integrated into the day-to-day operation.
Future of the legal reforms
I believe that the opening address of this seminar is a good opportunity for me to say few words about our policy in general. I am happy to note that special emphasis is put on the development of legal aid systems. Also in Finland we need to develop new ways and methods in legal aid services and use the possibilities of new technologies.
In Finland our vision for public legal aid is that every person will receive the necessary aid to solve his or her legal problem at the earliest possible stage, regardless of a poor economic situation.
Our objective is that all citizens have easy access to legal advice services through various channels. These channels include different forms of online counselling, electronic services, distance services, a telephone service and personal consultations.
A big question in future is- How to guarantee high level of legal protection with lower total costs, and how to improve the efficiency of the Judiciary?
We are facing changes in age structures. Older population means reduction in the number of people at working age, and the growth in age-related expenditures. In other words, we have to improve the efficiency of the administration of justice and the personnel's competence. For this reason, we have a programme for the Reform of the Administration of Justice for 2013?2025. The programme includes over 60 proposals.
Trade between Finland and China has increased significantly during these two decades. Finland has had its own share the investments and trade, firstly by large companies and later by small and medium size companies. Hundreds of Finnish companies have established an enterprise in China. I believe this trend will continue. All companies, domestic and international ones, must know that laws and regulations apply them equally and fair, and that they can trust on the legal system.
Finally, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
May I conclude by thanking Your Excellency Ms Wu Aiying, and all of you who have been contributing our work over these years.
We are looking forward to continue this cooperation with you. Now, I wish you all a very interesting and rewarding seminar.