Brussels News October 2010

E-Justice Portal Now Online        
The long-planned EU e-justice portal went online during the summer. For use by the public, legal professionals and the judiciary alike, it offers a comprehensive collection of data, both legal and practical, some held centrally, and some, such as professional directories, through links to local sites. Links are provided to forms for use in existing cross-border EU procedures, such as the European Enforcement Order and Small Claims, and these will be added to as more such procedures are adopted.

House of Lords Inquiry on the Working of the CJEU       

During August and September, the House of Lords conducted an inquiry into the working practices of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), in particular in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty expansion of its jurisdiction. Several representative bodies within the Bar have responded, and we await their Lordships' conclusions with interest.

Commission Consultation on a Future European Contract Law       

The Bar is working on its detailed response to the Commission's recently-published consultation on the future of the Common Frame of Reference (CFR) and European Contract law. The consultation period takes us to the end of January 2011. The European Parliament is organising a meeting with national parliaments on the same subject, in Brussels, on 27 October 2010.

Consumer Rights Directive Proposal         

The draft opinion of the Legal Affairs committee of the EP on this 2008 codifying proposal was published at the end of August. It draws on the draft Common Frame of reference in European Contract law (see above), and is a must-read for practitioners interested in EU developments in both files. In parallel, the Internal Market Committee is also finalising its report on the proposal.

Brussels I Regulation Review

On 7 September, the European Parliament, in Plenary session, adopted its own-initiative report (2009/2140/INI) on the Commission's five-year review of the operation of the Brussels I Regulation, 44/2001 on "jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters". The report is in line with the Bar's thinking on many key issues.

Proposal for a Regulation on Conflicts Rules in Succession

By the time of reading, the Legal Affairs Committee of the EP is expected to have adopted its report on the controversial 2009 Commission proposal for a regulation on the private international law aspects of succession, and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession (Reference COD(2009)0157). The UK has not opted in.

Right to Information in Criminal Proceedings       

During the summer, the Commission proposed the second of its six roadmap defence safeguards measures: a "letter of rights" to inform of their rights anyone suspected or accused of a criminal offence in any EU Member State, in a language they understand; and this to be provided at the earliest possible stage. The proposal provides a non-binding model in 22 EU languages. The Council has penciled in a possible agreement on the general approach at the December JHA Council. 

Exchange of Criminal Evidence - European Investigation Order        

At the end of August, the Commission issued an opinion on this April 2010 Member State initiative; indicating its willingness to cooperate in the legislative passage of the proposal, but also its intention to press ahead with its own planned proposal, foreseen for 2011 (see previous coverage of the Bar's response to the related Green Paper).

Consultation on the Rights of Victims of Crime            
During 2011, the Commission intends to adopt a new, comprehensive legislative proposal on victims of crime - rights, protection,  compensation etc. As part of its preparations, it has recently conducted a stakeholder consultation.  

Legal Expenses Insurance and the Free Choice of Lawyer

One year ago, the ECJ delivered judgment in the Eschig case (C-199/08) on the interpretation of Article 4 of Directive 87/344 on legal expenses insurance, the issue being whether so-called  'mass torts clauses' in legal expenses insurance are permitted to restrict the insured persons' right to choose their own lawyer.   The Court found that they could. In light of this, the Commission began working on an explanatory communication, on which the CCBE is providing input on behalf of the legal profession. There is also a new reference for a preliminary ruling on a similar point, case C-293/10. One to watch.

Rights of Transport Passengers - Bus, Coach, Sea and Inland Waterway

The EP plenary has adopted its second reading reports paving the way for final adoption of these two regulations, bringing the rights of passengers and duties of carriers, in these modes of transport, into line with those on airlines. Procedure references: COD (2008) 0237 & 0246.

Better Lawmaking
On 9 September, the European Parliament, in Plenary, adopted an own initiative report on the Commission's 15th annual report issued under the Treaty Protocol on Subsidiarity and Proportionality. The EP calls for simple and clear EU laws, and asks that the Council and the EP be treated as equals in the law making process. Procedure reference: 2009/2142/INI

EU Patent - Continuing Controversy over the Languages Regime        

EU Member States, notably Italy and Spain, have voiced opposition to the three-language compromise suggested in the Commission's recent proposal for the language regime of the future EU patent. Indeed, the Spanish were said to be counterproposing an English-only solution. The Belgian EU Presidency is still aiming for end-of-year adoption however, and will be jointly hosting with the Commission a conference on the EU patent and future jurisdiction on 3 November 2010

Commission Consultation the E-Commerce Directive       

For two months, until mid-October, the Commission conducted a public consultation on the future of electronic commerce in the internal market and the implementation of the controversial Directive on electronic commerce (2000/31/EC).

Combating Late Payments in Commercial Transactions
The EP and the Council are expected to approve, during October, this April 2009 Commission proposal for a directive to combat this perennial commercial problem (Procedure Reference COD(2009)054).

Interconnection of Business Registers       

On 7 September, the European Parliament in Plenary adopted an own initiative report supporting the Commission's idea possibly to create a mechanism to interconnect business registers,  making it easier for consumers, creditors and potential business partners to access company information cross-border.  2010/2055/INI.

New EU Guidelines for the Employment Policies of the Member States

On 8 September, the European Parliament in Plenary session indicated its support for the adoption by the Council of a decision setting out these guidelines (Procedure reference 2010/0115/NLE). This is part of the EU's March 2010 new strategy for jobs and growth "Europe 2020". The Council decision will be adopted pursuant to new Article 148 of the the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (TFEU), and runs in parallel with a Council Recommendation on broad guidelines for the economic policies of the Member States and of the Union (Art 121).