On 13th April 2021, a group of judges and prosecutors participating in the online study visit with the EU institutions received a presentation on Data Protection by Mr Nikša Stolić, a Croatian judge, currently seconded national expert at the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). Back in 2017-2018, Mr Nikša Stolić was himself an Exchange Programme participant in a long-term training period at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. The Exchange Programme team had the opportunity to further discuss with him about his experiences at the ECtHR and EDPS.
• Could you please shortly introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Nikša Stolić, I am a criminal law judge from Croatia. I have been working as a judge for almost 12 years now, dealing primarily with criminal cases but I have also worked on cases in the field of civil law. Before becoming a judge, I worked for several years for the Municipal State Attorney's Office in Zagreb-Criminal department. During these 12 years being a judge, I have also temporarily been assigned to work as a senior legal advisor at the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia. Currently, I am working as a seconded national expert for the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).
• In 2017-2018, you were a long-term trainee at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg (France). How was your experience and what were/are the impacts and benefits of such an experience on your career and professional practice as a judge?
Looking back at that one year, I can honestly say that it proved to be a turning point in my career. This was my first experience living outside of Croatia and working in an international environment and it turned out that I really enjoyed that. Also, the work I performed at the ECtHR and the training programmes I attended gave me a much deeper knowledge of the Convention, the Court's procedure and its case-law, which proved to be very useful in my future work, both in Croatia and now, here in Brussels. Working at the Court even allowed me to obtain a much broader picture of my national legal system because there I got to work on cases dealing with civil, administrative and minor offences law. Furthermore, it gave me not only a general overview of the most frequent complaints and problems in my country's judicial system but also a glance at other judicial systems, because I was able to share experiences with my colleagues from other European countries. In addition, by living in a foreign country, I did most of my communication in foreign languages, so my abilities in English, French and even German have improved. In conclusion, applying to this long-term training period at the ECtHR was a really good decision and I am very grateful to EJTN for that opportunity.
• You are now working at the EDPS based in Brussels (Belgium). What did motivate you to undertake this new experience? Did your experience at the ECtHR encourage you to work at the EDPS?
As already mentioned, the year in Strasbourg proved to be a crucial one. The time spent there, and the experience gained, really opened my horizon and increased my desire to work more in an international environment, to learn new things but also to contribute with my so far acquired knowledge and experience. An opportunity to work for the EDPS presented itself within a year after my arrival back from Strasbourg and I had no doubts whether to try to seize it.
• You were recently one of the speakers of the study visit with the EU institutions of Brussels proposed by the Exchange Programme. Why did you accept to become a speaker and to share your knowledge on Data Protection with the group?
Having in mind I was someone who benefited greatly from the EJTN programmes, when the EDPS received an invitation to speak during the study visit of the Exchange Programme, I somehow felt the need to give something back and also to share the new knowledge I have gained working for the EDPS, in this very interesting and important area of law-data protection.
• Would you have any advice to other EU judges and prosecutors who wish to develop their skills and knowledge in EU law and Human Rights law?
From my experience, but also from the experience of other colleagues I had the opportunity to talk to, the EJTN Exchange Programmes are a really valuable way not only to learn more and improve yourself professionally, but also to meet colleagues from other countries and exchange experiences. Therefore, my friendly advice is to use the opportunities given by EJTN as much as you can.