By Javier Fernández-Samaniego
Almost ten years have elapsed since the European Union adopted the Mediation Directive (2008/52/EC) in civil and commercial matters, and four years since the European Parliament acknowledged the so-called “EU Mediation Paradox”  in its study “‘Rebooting’ the mediation directive”. The study drew attention to the lack of significant development of mediation, utilized only in less than an average 1% of the cases in courts of Member States in the EU, despite its high success and satisfaction rates when used.
As rightly pointed out in the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee on the application of Directive 2008/52/EC (Aug 2016), due to the “unofficial” nature of mediation compared to formal court proceedings, it is very difficult to obtain comprehensive statistical data on mediation such as the profile of companies using mediation, number of mediated cases, the average length and success rates of mediation processes.
In what seems to be a fresh verse in the EU Mediation blues song, a new Resolution of 12 September 2017 on the implementation of the EU Mediation Directive (2008/52/EC) issued by the European Parliament notes that certain difficulties exist in relation to the functioning of the national mediation systems in practice. These difficulties are mainly rooted in the adversarial tradition and the lack of a “mediation culture” in the Member States, the low level of awareness of mediation in most Member States, insufficient knowledge of how to deal with cross-border cases and the functioning of the quality control mechanisms for mediators.
In this Resolution, the European Parliament has made the following recommendations:
- EU Member States should boost awareness of how useful mediation is and step up their efforts to encourage the use of mediation in civil and commercial disputes, such as through information campaigns, improved cooperation between legal professionals and an exchange of best practices in the different local jurisdictions of EU.
- The Commission should assess the need to develop EU-wide quality standards for the provision of mediation services, especially in the form of minimum standards ensuring consistency, while considering the fundamental right of access to justice.
- The Commission should assess the need for Member States to create national registers of mediated proceedings as useful sources of information for Commission and mediators across Europe.
- The Commission should undertake a detailed study on the obstacles to the free circulation of foreign mediation agreements in the Union and on various options to promote the use of mediation as a sound, affordable and effective way to solve conflicts in internal and cross-border disputes in the Union, considering the rule of law and ongoing international developments in this field.
Lastly, in an apparent call for new rules, the Parliament requests that the Commission offer solutions to extend the scope of mediation to other civil or administrative matters in future regulation and highlights that, despite the voluntary nature of mediation, further steps must be taken to ensure the enforceability of mediated agreements in a quick and affordable manner.
On the brighter side, there are some less worried notes to the EU Mediation blues tune since the Parliament also welcomes the Commission’s dedication to co-financing various projects aimed at the promotion of mediation and training for judges and practitioners in the Member States. It appears that, after ten years’ investment in civil and commercial mediation since the Directive has been adopted, the perseverance will pay off.
The International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) through its European Advisory Board is working hard to fulfill the agreed-upon objectives and has recently published a guide for European corporates and organizations on the use of mediation and other ADR processes  that includes resources and practices to help identify disputes suitable for ADR and make the most out of them. The Guide also includes several successful case studies. There is no doubt that such efforts will eventually turn the moody blues of EU mediation into a happier upbeat melody.
 See the European Parliament’s study: “‘Rebooting’ the mediation directive”: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=IPOL-JURI_ET(2014)493042
 Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee on the application of Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters. Brussels, 26.8.2016 COM(2016) 542 final http://ec.europa.eu/justice/civil/files/act_part1_adopted_en.pdf
Javier Fernández-Samaniego is the Managing Director of the IberoAmerican law firm SAMANIEGO LAW with offices in Madrid and Miami (for Latin America) and head of its Commercial, Dispute Resolution and Tech & Comms team. He regularly serves as an arbitrator and mediator of complex international disputes and he is a member of the Institute’s CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutral and of CPR European Advisory Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.