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Au service de la profession d’huissier de justice dans le monde depuis 1952
At the Service of the Profession of Judicial Officer in the World since 1952
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HomeSéparateurFocusSéparateurUIHJSéparateurEditoSéparateurMajor upheaval in our profession
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Major upheaval in our profession

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The profession, with its enforcement agents throughout the world, is a bit like the famous two-headed eagle with its eyes riveted on one side towards the public service and on the other side in the direction of the private sector.

In fact, depending on the judicial system of the country we are looking at, judicial officers are either civil servants or private professionals, performing their duties without any dependency other than control by judicial authorities. This dilution of the profession between two systems, which are two quite different concepts, has resulted in a blurred image of the enforcement agent.

Although the common basis remains enforcement of judgements and writs of execution, the general assessment is that this function remains relatively difficult to define. Just try to cross the border of a county, you might come across a policeman who is overenthusiastic and who asks you what your profession is. You will realize that it is not always easy to explain who we are, except by referring to seizures and evictions, a sort of logo that characterises us in the eyes of the public.

This simplistic profile, in addition to the sarcasm aimed at a corporation with a controversial brand image, is sometimes seen as stigmatising. Yet this image can shift, if, for example you take the case of France where the very same enforcement agent who is blamed for proceeding with an expulsion, becomes absolutely irreplaceable when drawing up a formal record of evidence.

The diverse nature of our tasks, the differences in status and the lack of any shared professional appellation are an obstacle to fulfilment in our job.
Whilst judicial officers in the private sector ensure the technological and economic development of their office, enforcement officers, who are civil servants, are concerned quite legitimately with their working conditions, their career path and their remuneration, etc., so we are looking at two different worlds.

The name given to our counterparts or colleagues is sometimes romanesque: Messengers-at-arms in Scotland, Krononofogdemyndigheten in Sweden, Shikko-Kan in Japan. Such a range of denominations does not help with the perception of the judicial officer or enforcement agent, unlike the case of notaries or lawyers, where the terms and phonetics used are very similar in emerging languages and are almost universal.

Some are calling for a baptism ceremony, or even a common appellation (translated into the language of the country concerned) which could be - this has already been suggested - enforcement commissioner.

So what can we do in such a chaotic landscape?

For nearly 15 years, the UIHJ has concentrated on the idea that the face of our profession in both Europe and Africa should be based on a range of essential criteria: private professionals proceeding with notifications, enforcements, public sales, or even official reports, with a high level of legal background, etc.

In the nineties, contacts were made with countries from the ex-Soviet block. Under the Union's influence, almost all of them gradually adopted a status based on the French model.

Prospects for enlargement of the European Union caused us recently to predict that soon Europe will have a body of judicial officers with an identical status.

This conviction, held by the UIHJ in its determination to encourage the arrival of a European judicial officer, has just been consecrated. It was a consecration that had indeed been hoped for but not expected to happen quite so quickly. And there was good reason...

In less than 10 years Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic have all established the private regime.

Over the same period of time, Portugal has just created the “enforcement solicitador”, whilst Spanish procuradores are stating their ambition to enjoy the same prerogatives as German enforcement agents who are seeking a change in status and looking towards the private profession!
Even in England and Wales, deep-seated reforms are renovating the status of sheriff officers and enforcement agents!

Contacts are awaited with Malta and Cyprus and in the whole of the European space, as set out in the Treaty of Amsterdam, only Finland, Sweden, Austria and Italy remain encamped on their positions, maintaining a public servant status for enforcement officers.

Since 1st May 2004, when Europe was extended to 25 members, we can state that - whatever the name given- a body of enforcement professionals (plus, in some cases, professionals dealing with notification, formal reports and sales), was born in the private sector, comparable to the one in France, Benelux, Scotland, Greece, etc.

So, the old dream held in the nineties by our pioneer, Baudouin Gielen, is actually coming true: the European judicial officer now has a real body, even a soul with things happening at an amazing rate over the past few years.

At the Brussels Assizes on debt collection held in April 2004, 14 delegations from Europe and Canada attended to talk about debt collection, networks and modern working techniques.

The following month in Budapest, at the UIHJ European Council, topics concentrated on debt collection, office economy, technology and management. Economic pragmatism was a recurrent subject to such an extent that certain delegations had no hesitation in recommending a modification of their rules on internal procedures in order to encourage the creation of international networks, designed according to common statutory standards.

Within the European Union contacts are happening on all sides and it's clearly time for all judicial officers to talk the same language!

At the Union's head office, requests for information on debt collection and enforcement in Member States are pouring in, which is the sign of an exponential level of cross-border disputes.

In terms of international institutions, the UIHJ is called on to cooperate everywhere, at the EU, the Council of Europe and the Conference in The Hague.

Maybe we're wrong, but we have the very clear feeling that judicial Europe is not possible without judicial officers.

And what about the fact that the same thing is happening in North, Central and West Africa, and even in some parts of Southern Africa not forgetting Madagascar and Mauritius? Thailand and Vietnam are commencing reforms getting their inspiration from the French system, whilst Argentina is dispatching its first regiments out to conquer private status.

After that who could possibly deny that we are undergoing a major upheaval in our profession?
 
Jacques Isnard
President of UIHJ
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Séparateur
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Jacques Isnard

President of the UIHJ

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Major upheaval in our profession
December 2007
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