The activities of the Exchange Programme 2020 have been deeply affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. After all activities have been suspended from March to August 2020, judicial exchanges could resume from 1st September onwards. The Belgian Judicial Training Institute was amongst the institutions who decided to maintain the group exchange they had planned to organise at the beginning of September.
“Due to the uncertainties related to the sanitary organising the exchange has been quite complex and challenging” declared Karin Carlens, the Belgian Exchange Programme contact point in charge of international affairs at the Judicial Training Institute. “Many participants had to cancel due to travel bans in Belgium and in Europe and several visits such as the visit to the prison or guided tour of the Palace of Justice could not be organised because of the sanitary measures”.
In the end, during the exchange, which finally gathered together 3 Italian judges, social distancing was ensured in all visited locations and rooms. The participants were requested to wear their mask at all times.
Rather than an issue, being only 3 participants has been a great opportunity for them to enjoy a very flexible programme. As all 3 judges were working in the area of guardianship law, the Belgian NCP organised additional sessions upon their request to meet with Belgian judges working in the same field. Other activities such as assisting to a closed court hearing or consultation of casefiles were made possible thanks to a limited number of participants. Being a smaller number allowed the participants to have in depth discussions and more informal contacts between with their Belgian colleagues.
Reorganising at the last minute and reviewing the activities according to the number of participants represented a real challenge for the Belgian Judicial Training Institute but in the end the whole exchange went very smoothly, and all the participants really enjoyed their exchange in Belgium.