Vatican's Promoter of Justice Urges Adherence to Schengen Treaty

In an Address to Open the Judicial Year

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican City's Promoter of Justice says that eventual adherence to the Schengen Treaty will allow this state to adapt to European levels and improve the quality of judicial administration.



Nicola Picardi made this suggestion Saturday, when addressing the opening of the 76th Judicial Year of Vatican City State, in the presence of Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano and top Italian magistrates, Vatican Radio reported.

Last year Picardi said that phenomena such as international terrorism suggest adjustments in the judicial terrain in the Vatican. He also said it was necessary to speed up criminal processes in the tiny state.

Vatican City's Promoter of Justice of the Tribunal pointed out the present disproportion in the number of litigations, both in regard to the population residing in the Vatican as well as the type of offenses committed.

According to the data he provided, in Italy, out of a population of 57 million, the average relation between inhabitants and civil proceedings is 5.3% and reaches 10% in the relation between population and criminal proceedings. In Vatican City -- with 492 inhabitants -- the proportion reaches 86% in civil matters and 106% in criminal matters.

The number of cases isn't due so much to those who actually live the Vatican; fewer than 2% of them are involved in the judicial proceedings.

Rather, the high figures are due to the 18 million foreign pilgrims and tourists who enter Vatican City, especially in the basilica and the museums, with the "consequent juridical and practical difficulties," observes Picardi.

Picardi mentioned the example of the case of notifications of criminal acts, which, following the traditional diplomatic channels, are handled in periods that extend from a minimum of six months to several years, prolonging the processes excessively.

The result is that the litigations that the tribunal handles end in an average of 1,303 days, Vatican Radio reported.

Nicola Picardi said the duration is "alarming" and "anomalous," adding that it could not "be justified" either by particularly complex offenses -- since the great majority are robberies, 90% of whose perpetrators go unpunished; undue appropriations; frauds; and falsifications.

This is the context in which Picardi suggested measures that will allow the Vatican judicial system to function more autonomously.

He stressed the need for greater appreciation of the role of the "sole judge" and of greater cooperation with judicial bodies and the police of the rest of the world.

From this perspective, Picardi added that careful examination should be made of the "eventuality of the adherence of Vatican City State to the Schengen Treaty," which in addition to the elimination of internal borders provides for the intensification of the "exchange of information, of operative relationships, of preventive and repressive initiatives in safeguarding the security of people."

The norms of the Schengen agreement -- which form part of the European Union's legislation -- regulate the free circulation of people within the continent. It seeks to do away with controls in the interior borders between the signatory states while reinforcing controls in the exterior borders.

In order to combine freedom and security, this free circulation is coupled with "compensatory" measures, which aim to improve coordination between the police, customs, and justices services and to adopt measures necessary to combat, in particular, terrorism and organized crime.