EU directive opens up legal aid access

The EU Council of Min-isters has reached political agreement over the passing of a new legal aid directive, which would ease access to legal aid for litigants in cross-border civil and commercial disputes

Member states will be bound to provide legal aid to citizens who cannot afford legal advice for cases held within the EU, unless they deem that actions are “manifestly unfounded”.
The EU justice and home affairs council has charged its officials to deal with certain technical issues, so that formal approval can be secured by the end of this year.
This legislation will impose common rules for member states dealing with legal aid inquiries, covering any court or tribunal. It will not, however, help applications for assistance in revenue, customs or administrative matters. Its guidelines will instruct governments to consider legal aid appropriate for cases in foreign member states when it guarantees: pre-litigation advice with a view to reaching a settlement prior to legal proceedings; legal assistance and representation in court; help with court costs generally, including court ordered fees.
If an out of court deal is offered, member states may decide to withhold legal aid depending on the details of the case.