Brussels News April 2011

Consultation on a future European Contract Law
The Bar submitted a full response to the European Commission's consultation on the future of European Contract Law.  COMBAR responded separately (see below).   We support the publication of the Commission's work and the development of a toolbox for EU legislators, but, along with others, say that the Commission has failed to make a case for anything more. Its plans are costly, legally uncertain and unsound,  and disproportionate. Nonetheless, the Commission intends to issue a proposal for a regulation later this year, creating an optional instrument.

Consumer Rights Directive - Council and EP diverge
The Council has agreed its approach on the draft consumer rights directive, limiting it to distance and off-premises contracts between trader and consumer; and harmonizing the consumer information requirements and the right of withdrawal.  However, the European Parliament (EP)  is trying to reinstate some provisions on remedies and unfair contract terms.  Interesting times.

Brussels I regulation review
The Bar responded to the Ministry of Justice's consultation on the proposal reviewing regulation 44/2001 on recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, recommending UK opt in, and underlining issues of concern, including adequate safeguards if exequatur is abolished; and exclusion of arbitration.

EU horizontal consultation on collective redress
The Commission is conducting a horizontal consultation leading to the development of principles to be applied to private enforcement in different EU fields, including consumer protection, competition law,  environmental policy, etc. Deadline 30 April 2011. The Bar will respond.

European Judicial Network (EJN)
(civil) - legal profession now included Evanna Fruithof, the Bar's representative in Brussels, recently addressed the first annual meeting of the EJN following its extension to include the legal professions. The EJN had hitherto been limited to the judiciary an ministries of justice in the Member States.  It examines the effectiveness of existing EU law and whether further EU / international action is needed. See its useful website:

Identification and Freezing of Debtor's assets - Bar ideas are taken up The EP is asking the Commission to propose a regulation creating respectively: zza European order for the preservation of assets (EOPA); and zza European order for the disclosure of assets (EODA).  These ideas can be traced back to the Bar's response to the 2008 Green Paper.

EP looking at the implementation of the Mediation Directive
The EP's Legal Affairs Committee will examine the implementation of Directive 2008/52/EC on mediation in civil and commercial matters, and its take-up by national courts. See:

The Hungarian Council Presidency wants to secure agreement on the sensitive 2009 proposal for a regulation on jurisdiction and PIL aspects of succession (reference COD(2009)0157). There are many hurdles:  probate, whether and how to define habitual
residence; national positions on forced heirship; passing of title in immovable property; definition of a court and clawback.

Procedural Rights for suspects and defendants - information
The EU institutions are nearing agreement on the proposed directive on the right to information (COD(2010)0215). The EP wants it to cover all cases of limitation of personal freedom, for the letter of rights to be expanded and provided to the accused immediately.

Sexual abuse and exploitation of children
Hopes are high that the March 2010 proposal for a directive on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (COD(2010)064) could be adopted formally by the end of June. See:

Money laundering back on the agenda
The Commission is considering the Deloitte report on the application of the 3rd Anti-Money Laundering Directive 2005/60/EC,  and plans a fourth version, for 2012.

Belgian / French / Luxembourg Bar seminar on police custody in Europe
Evanna Fruithof recently addressed a meeting of lawyers from the above three Member States on UK law on police custody and the effect of recent ECHR jurisprudence, notably Salduz v Turkey  [2008] ECHR 36391/02.

Revamp of EU data protection policy
The Bar Council submitted a positive response to the Commission's consultation on its planned overhaul of the existing EU data protection rules. See:  The Council has also endorsed Commission plans:

New EU agenda for the rights of the child
The Bar responded to the Commission's 2010 consultation on the rights of the child.  The Commission has now published an EU agenda for reinforcing the rights of the child, setting out 11 actions it intends to pursue. See:

Single Market Act
In late 2010 the Commission issued a Communication entitled "Towards a Single Market Act" (COM(2010) 608 final/2)  containing 50 proposals in areas as diverse as IP, environment, services, taxation, company law, and fundamental rights:
It is now being debated in the EP:

Modernisation of EU public procurement policy
The Commission has completed a consultation on updating the EU's public procurement legislation:

EU consultation on ADR
The Commission has completed a consultation on the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution for resolving disputes related to commercial transactions in the EU.

VAT consultation
The Commission is consulting ahead of its planned Communication on simplifying and streamlining the VAT system EU-wide;.  Deadline 31 May 2011.

Combating late payments in Commercial Transactions
Directive 2011/7/EU laying down new rules on late payment in commercial transactions is now in force and must be implemented into Member State law within 2 years. See: OJ L 48/1 of 23/02/2011 or

EU Patent - green light for enhanced cooperation
Plans to allow 12 Member States to press ahead with a unitary patent system in the EU, should have been endorsed by the time of reading. If so, the Commission will table two legislative proposals - one on the language regime and the other establishing the single patent. Will this end 30 years of circular debate?

Company law - Interconnection of Business Registers
The Commission has adopted a proposal for a directive on the interconnection of business registers, to facilitate EU-wide searches by businesses and consumers:

EP call for Independent Impact Assessments
The EP's Legal Affairs Committee is calling for guaranteed independent impact assessments to precede Commission proposals. See:

Luxembourg Courts dealing with references more quickly
The ECJ has reported an overall increase in the number of cases heard during 2010, apparently complemented by welcome improvements in their duration.