December 2011

European Contract Law
On 11 October, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation creating a European Sales law, together with a package of supporting documents. See: http://bit.ly/tzxu1V 

The Council's initial exchange on the file in late October, focused on difficulties with the legal basis, the level of consumer protection, objective need and the complexity of embedding the proposal into the different national legal systems. The Bar's initial views are summarised in the article on the Bar Council Brussels Office carried in the main body of this issue of Counsel.

EU developments on Collective redress
The Commission is due to issue a Communication setting out the results of its recent consultation, and considering next steps. The European Parliament (EP)'s committees on Legal Affairs Economic Affairs, and Internal Market and Consumer Protection, have all expressed their (varying) views on the way forward. See: http://bit.ly/tYX0za 

European Judicial Training - Commission Communication
In mid-September, the Commission published a Communication on judicial training for judges and practitioners, focussing on EU law, and setting out ambitious numerical targets for training (both pre- and post-qualification). Many of these plans will be put into practice in the coming months. http://bit.ly/sOCYEC 

EU funding for projects in the Justice field
Calls for proposal for action grants and operating grants in the field of judicial cooperation should have been published during November, with a deadline for submission of applications in the first quarter of 2012. Any SBA or other Bar body interested in running an exchange/training/seminar project involving at least one other Member State or an applicant country, should be checking these websites:

Civil:
http://bit.ly/tw2OfL and
Criminal:
http://bit.ly/rs0j0H

Freezing of assets
In September, the Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation creating a European Account Preservation Order (EAPO) to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters. The UK, whilst supportive of the idea in principle, is not opting in to the proposal, because the current draft is too wide and lacks the controls and safeguards needed to prevent abuse of the measure. These concerns are widely held, so the legislative negotiations may resolve them. See: http://bit.ly/t4UE57

Limitation periods in RTAs - Commission consultation
By the time of reading, the Commission is expected to be one month into a three-month public consultation on possible harmonisation of limitation periods, focussing in the first instance on Road Traffic Accident (RTA) claims. See: http://bit.ly/vPFOqU

ADR in civil, commercial and family matters
At the end of October, the EP in plenary adopted an own initiative report (Procedure
reference INI(2011)2117) calling on the Commission to "explore providing a harmonised legal framework for some aspects of ADR across sectors" and otherwise encouraging its development and use. See: http://bit.ly/uoKqYh

The Commission's is due to adopt proposals in this field by year's end.

Brussels I regulation review
The EU institutions are negotiating the review of regulation 44/2001 on recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Procedure reference COD(2010)0383), with a view to agreeing the main elements before Christmas.

Sexual abuse and exploitation of children - final steps
The EP has formally adopted the 2010 proposal for a directive on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and repealing Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA (COD(2010)064). See: http://bit.ly/tFq82a

Formal Council adoption is now expected before year's end.

The use of criminal law in enforcing EU policy
The Commission recently issued a Communication entitled Towards an EU Criminal Policy", which is intended to enable the Union to define if, when and how to use law to better enforce EU policy. See: http://bit.ly/v5hPym

Consumer Rights Directive
Following three years of negotiations, the Consumer Rights Directive has been formally adopted. For the final text, go to: http://bit.ly/s6ns6e

Prevention of insider dealing and market manipulation
At the end of October, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive which requires Member States to apply criminal sanctions to the intentional or attempted commission of two types of market abuse offences: insider dealing and market manipulation (both defined in the proposal). In tandem, it adopted a complementary proposal for a regulation on insider dealing and market manipulation, establishing a common regulatory framework intended for financial markets in the EU. See:
http://bit.ly/ucdlS9 and http://bit.ly/tgzmWi

Reform of Commission's antitrust procedures
In October, the Commission adopted a package of measures aimed at increasing interaction with parties in antitrust proceedings and strengthening the mechanisms for safeguarding parties' procedural rights. The package also encompasses a revised Hearing Officer's mandate, strengthening and expanding that role. See: http://bit.ly/tHTvtT

Modernisation of EU public procurement policy
In late October, the EP in plenary adopted its own-initiative report calling on the Commission to ensure that the future EU Public Procurement regime offers greater legal clarity; best value for money; simplification of the rules and greater procedural flexibility, whilst avoiding unfair advantages; better access for SMEs and an expansion of e-procurement. This report responds to the Commission's spring 2011 consultation. http://bit.ly/syOYcN

EP responds to VAT consultation
In October, the EP in Plenary adopted its own initiative report supporting the Commission's plans for a comprehensive revamp of the VAT regime, designed in particular to prevent fraud, and seeking a Commission proposal, by the end of 2012 on "simplifying cross-border taxation". See: http://bit.ly/vahRyL

EP seeking revamp and extension of EU Insolvency laws
By the time of reading, the EP in plenary will likely have adopted an own-initiative report entitled "Insolvency proceedings in the context of EU company law", encouraging the Commission to present legislative proposals on four main issues in the field, updating existing EU legislation, and including the harmonisation of specific aspects of insolvency and company law. The EP document number is A7-0355/2011.

Credit agreements relating to residential property
The Economic Affairs Committee of the EP is due to adopt its report on this March 2011 proposal in December. It has the benefit of the Legal Affair's committee's opinion, adopted in October. That opinion raises doubts about the need for the proposal, its suitability to achieve the stated objectives, and its content. See: http://bit.ly/uSKA4L

Mutual Evaluation of the Services Directive
On 25 October, the EP in Plenary adopted its report on the mutual evaluation process of the Services Directive and on the merits of mutual evaluation. See: http://bit.ly/vZrF15

The status of In-house lawyers before the Luxembourg Courts
In-house lawyers await the appeals of the General Court of the EU's decision in case
T- 226/10 with trepidation. The substance of the claim before the Court was never
adjudged upon, as the application was held inadmissible because the applicant was
represented by its own in-house counsel, rather than external lawyers. By the time of
reading, it should be clear whether entreaties by the Law Society and Bar to HMG, and similar actions elsewhere, have resulted in any interventions in support of the appeals.