Brussels News June 2010

Stockholm Programme Action Plan
At the end of 2009 the European Council adopted the Stockholm Programme, the EU's 5-year Justice Liberty and Security work programme, to run from 2010 to 2014. On 20 April 2010, the Commission issued a Communication containing a detailed list of measures to be adopted in pursuit of that programme, with an indication of the timing thereof - the Stockholm Programme Action Plan.

Brussels I Regulation Review
In 2009 the Commission launched its 5-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 Legal Affairs Committee of the Eureopean Parliament (EP) is in the process of adopting its report on how best to proceed to amend the regulation. The first draft, seen by the Bar's own experts, was encouraging on the main issues of abolition of exequator, the operation of the lis pendens rule, etc. The Commission is also in the process of gathering together a group of experts to advise it on the complex issues relating to the arbitration exception.

European Contract Law and the Common Frame of Reference
The Stockholm Programme Action Plan (above) refers to a Communication on the future of the Common Frame of Reference (CFR), to be adopted by the Commission later this year, seeking views on the way forward. Readers will know that the CFR, currently in lengthy draft form, results from many years of work by a group of contract law academics drawn from across the EU. The Commission has just appointed a group of 20 further experts charged with cutting the current draft CFR down to a practical, manageable size. Commissioner Reding, responsible for Justice, has high ambitions for the CFR in the longer term.

Consumer Rights Directive
The EP is making progress on its analysis of the 2008 proposal for a Consumer Rights Directive (2008/0196/COD). The Legal Affairs Committee has produced a Working Document, indicating support for the Bar's long-standing approach of targeted full harmonisation, and the lead committee, Internal Market (IMCO)  will produce its first report before the summer. The plan is for the EP to give its definitive collective view by the end of the year.   The Bar's European Group (BEG) discussed the proposal in depth at its recent annual conference in Paris, dedicated on this occasion to Consumer Law.

Proposal for a Regulation on Conflicts Rules in Succession
In October 2009, the European Commission adopted a muchanticipated proposal for a regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession, and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession (Procedure reference COD(2009)0157. The UK and Ireland have not opted in. At the end of April, the German MEP who is the rapporteur on the file for the Legal Affairs Committee produced his draft report.

Attachment of Bank Accounts and Transparency of Debtors' Assets
In 2006 and 2008 the Commission conducted public consultations on these two related issues, to both of which the Bar responded, suggesting, on the latter one, that a practical solution could be to create a European Provisional Order. That idea was picked up in the EP's own April 2009 resolution on the consultation. After a period of relative inactivity on the files on the part of the Commission, it held a public hearing on improving the enforcement of judgments through these means in early June 2010, with a view to garnering stakeholder opinion on legislative options available. The Stockholm Programme Action plan (above) indicates that we should expect a proposal for a regulation in this field later this year.

Matrimonial Property
The Commission is also working on a legislative proposal on the private international law rules relating to Matrimonial Property.   The Bar responded to the 2006 consultation on same, and remains of the view that a proposal as envisaged by the Commission could have no effect in the UK, given our very different approach to property rights in the matrimonial context.   Accordingly, the Bar is currently brainstorming with members of the judiciary and other interested UK stakeholders to try to identify creative solutions that could be suggested to the EU legislator.

Appeal to CJEU on Lawyer - Client Confidentiality and Inhouse Counsel
C-557/07, Akzo Nobel Chemicals Ltd and Akcros Chemicals Ltd v Commission
The General Court of the EU (formerly Court of First Instance)'s decision of September 2007, which declined to take the opportunity to extend the scope of Legal professional privilege in EU law to in-house counsel who are members of Bars or law societies, is subject to appeal before the Court of Justice of the EU. The opinion of Advocate General Kokott, which emerged on 29 April 2010, supports the Court's decision. The AG seems not to have taken the point on the deontological safeguards in place when in-house lawyers are subject to the codes of conduct of the Bars to which they belong.