The topic of public access to national court decisions has never been explicitly on the agenda of the Council of the European Union, since it has been viewed upon as a national responsibility. Recent developments though – like the introduction of the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and the go-live of the ECLI search engine, operated by the European Commission and containing millions of national court decisions – have raised awareness about the importance of online accessibility of national case law for the European legal order. This has set the stage for the adoption, on 8 March 2018, of the ‘Conclusions of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States Meeting within the Council on Best Practices regarding the Online Publication of Court Decisions’. This Chapter discusses various aspects of these Conclusions. First of all, the character of such Council conclusions as a soft law instrument will be explained. Secondly, the document is reviewed in a broader context of recent policy developments and other (semi-) legal instruments. Finally, the substantive contents of the document will be examined. Although most of the best practices prescribe what is already common practice in all or most EU Member States, some provisions call upon governments and judiciaries to implement strategies that are not commonplace yet, e.g. to supply for some kind of importance qualification, indicating which, and to which extent court decisions are of relevance for others than the parties to the case.
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