Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 10 June 2020, IRZ organised a online seminar on “Apostille, new Technologies and Notary Services”. The online event was aimed at thirty or so notaries from all over Tunisia. The experts participating in the online seminar from Tunisia and Germany were:

  • Kais Kabada, President of the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries,
  • Richard Bock, Justizrat and former Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries,
  • Dr. Torsten Jäger, notary,
  • Houcine Lagrem, Secretary of the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries,
  • Dr. Peter Stelmaszczyk, Managing Director of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries in Brussels, and
  • Sourour Abidi, notary.

The initiative for the online seminar came from the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries, due to the restrictions and hurdles resulting from the current legal and political situation during the coronavirus pandemic. The event focussed on the challenges facing notarial services because of the restrictions, curfews, closures and distancing measures in place. The aim was to find solutions to these challenges. The participants also discussed the effects of the coronavirus pandemic with a view to economic and private law issues.

Since notarial certification, the verification of the authenticity of documents, seals, signatures, identities and stamps, is usually almost exclusively carried out in person and on presentation of original documents, the coronavirus pandemic is hitting notarial transactions particularly hard. Many notary’s offices have been affected by the restrictions in the wake of the crisis and have remained closed, which means that citizens have to a large extent been unable to gain access to the law and legal transactions.

During the online seminar, individual problems concerning notary services and legal transactions in Tunisia and Germany were discussed, as well as potential solutions such as the e-Apostille system. At present, both countries have a low level of digitalised legal transactions. Within this context, the participants discussed the e-Apostille system, as well as the dangers, advantages and disadvantages of digital legal transactions. They talked about how the safety, confidentiality and authenticity of persons, documents and contents can be protected, without any obvious inspection being carried out. They also discussed the risk of authenticating and legalising documents, which could be counterfeits. The experts put forward proposals for the conditions under which the digital verification of documents could be possible. In this context, the Belgian model was presented: A third-party online platform provides all verified documents with an encrypted code to prevent any manipulations.

There are also efforts at EU level to set criteria and standards for harmonising legalisation procedures, with a regulation due to come into force in 2022. The envisaged procedures will require an electronic identity document with PIN and video identification with PIN. Since not all EU countries allow the collection of biometric data, it will be difficult for members to agree on a standardised procedure to cover the entire EU. The participating Tunisian and German notaries did, however, agree that the simplification and harmonisation of legal transactions must also be reflected digitally.

Whilst Tunisia has joined the Hague Apostille Convention, the Convention does not yet apply with relation to Germany. There is therefore not yet any universally valid and recognised digital process to qualify and legalise documents, seals, signatures and stamps. The participants also agreed that the certification process should not be allowed to proceed exclusively via an app and algorithms, without any human intervention.

Background information

With the help of institutional funding, IRZ has been organising bilateral projects on legal reform with its Tunisian partners since 2011. These are currently established between the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice as part of the working programme for 2019 - 2020. Within the framework of this programme, the IRZ has a partnership with the Tunisian Ministry of Justice and therefore also with the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries, which itself has good relations with the German Federal Chamber of Notaries. The continuation of these relations is fundamental for the improvement of legal transactions between Tunisia and Germany.