The Future of Uniform Private Law in the European Union: New Trends and Challenges

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The Future of Uniform Private Law in the European Union: New Trends and Challenges

in Spanish Yearbook of International Law Online


* This article is part of Research Project SEJ2005-02243/JURI, financed by the MEC.

1 See H.P. Glenn, "Harmony of Laws in the Americas", The University of Miami Inter- American Law Review, vol. 34, 2003, pp. 223-246, pp. 224-232, in favour of an infor- mal model of harmonization as typically followed in American integration processes, as opposed to the formal, centralised harmonization of the EU. Nonetheless, it would seem, to the contrary, that the differences in levels of harmonization have more to do with the fact that the degree of integration attained by those models is very different. 2 For an analysis of the subject matters concerned, see S.A. Sanchez Lorenzo, Derecho privado europeo, Granada, 2002, pp. 43-73; and S. Camara Lapuente (coord.), Derecho privado europeo, Madrid, 2003, pp. 235-1233. 3 For an overall analysis, see L. Niglia, "The Non-Europeanisation of Private Law", ERPL, 2001, pp. 575-599. 4 Cf. J. Basedow, "Codification of Private Law in the European Union: the Making of a Hybrid", ERPG, 2001, pp. 35�9, p. 38. 1 Cf. T. Korber, "Europaisierung des Privatrechts durch Direktwirkung des Gemeinschafts- rechts ?", EuZW, vol. 12, 2001, p. 353. 6 Directive 2005/29/EC of 11 May 2005.

7 see J. Marco Molina, "La Directiva 1999/44/CE sobre determinados aspectos de la venta y las garantias de la venta de consumo", La armonizacion del derecho de obligaciones en Europa, Valencia, 2006, pp. 165-187, pp. 178-183. 8 This may be a source of friction and problems in the interpretation and application of the rules; in connection with Directive 1999/44, see T. Troger, "Zum Systemdenken im europaischen Schuldvertragsrecht - Probleme der Rechtsangleichung durch Richtlinien am Beispiel der Verbrauchsgiiterkauf-Richtlinie", ZeuP, vol. 11, 2003, pp. 525-540, pp. 528-534. 9 See M.P. Garcia Rubio, "La trasposicion de la Directiva 1999/44/CE al Derecho espanol. Analisis del Proyecto de ley de garantias en la venta de bienes de consumo", La Ley, 26 March 2003. 10 see M.J. Reyes Lopez, "La idea de conformidad en el ordenamiento juridico espanol tras la entrada en vigor de la Directiva 1999/44/CE", Derecho patrimonial europeo, Navarra, 2003, pp. 321-338, pp. 328-338.

" See P.A. De Miguel Asensio, Derecho privado de Internet, 3rd ed., Madrid, 2002, pp. 350-382. '2 In fact the moment of conclusion, an issue not included in the Directive, is the only aspect of electronic contracts that the Spanish legislator has incorporated into the gen- eral legislation on contractual obligations, through the amendment of articles 1262 Civil Code and 54 Code of Commerce introduced by Law 34/2002. " The limited scope of the powers founded on the adoption of measures relating to the establishment and operation of the internal market was highlighted in a very special way

cont. by the ECJ judgment of 5 October 2000: case C-376/98, Germany vs. Parliament and Council. According to that judgment, the mere disparity of national laws and the abstract risk of obstacles to Community freedoms and the internal market are not sufficient to warrant resort to article 95 of the EC Treaty, which only authorises the adoption of mea- sures to deal with situations entailing concrete and significant obstacles. " See S. Grundmann, "Information, Party Autonomy and Economic Agents in European Contract Law", CMLRev, vol. 39, 2002, pp. 269-293, pp. 270-271. 15 see G.A., Bermann, "A Commentary on the Harmonization of European Private Law", Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law, vol. 1, 1993, pp. 47-58, pp. 51-52. 16 Cf. "Social Justice in European Contract Law: a Manifesto", European Law Journal, vol. 10, 2004, pp. 653-674, p. 656. " See S. Sanchez Lorenzo, Derecho ... op. cit., pp. 124-125; and S. Alvarez González, "Derecho internacional privado y Derecho privado europeo", S. Camara Lapuente (coord.), Derecho..., op. cit., pp. 157-190, p. 185. '8 See J.D. Gonzalez Campos, "Diritto privato uniforme e diritto internazionale privato", P. Picote (dir.) Diritto internazionale privato e Diritto comunitario, Padua, 2004, pp. 33-64. '9 See F. Esteban de la Rosa, La protección de los consumidores en el mercado interior europeo, Granada, 2003, pp. 20-43.

20 See A. Borras, "Derecho intemacional privado y Tratado de Amsterdam", REDI, vol. II, 19992, pp. 383�26. 21 See P.A. de Miguel Asensio, "Integraci6n europea y Derecho internacional privado", RDCE, 1997, pp. 413-445, pp. 424� 25. zz Cf. J.A. Alfaro Aguila-Real, "La unificaci6n del derecho privado en la Uni6n Europea", S. Camara Lapuente (coord.), Derecho ..., op. cit., pp. 107-127, p. 114. z3 See B. Lurger, "The Social Side of Contract Law and the New Principle of Regard and Fairness", Towards a European Civil Code, 3rd ed, Nijmegen, 2004, pp. 273-295. za See S. Camara Lapuente, "Un derecho privado o un c6digo civil para Europa: Plantea- miento, nudo y (esquivo) desenlace", S. Camara Lapuente (coord.), Derecho ..., op. cit., pp. 79-80. 25 Critical of this situation, stressing the link between consumer protection rules and the general rules governing contractual obligations, is L.A. Deflorian, "Consumer Protection, Fair Dealing in Marketing Contracts and European Contract Law - A Uniform Law?", Global Jurist Frontiers, vol. 2, 2002, pp. 1-40, 33-34. Cf. M.P. Garcia Rubio, "Hacia un Derecho europeo de contratos", E. Perez Carrillo (coord.), Estudios de Derecho mercantil europeo, Madrid, 2005, pp. 83-103, p. 88.

27 See S. Grundmann, "The Structure of European Contract Law", ERPL, vol. 4, 2001, pp. 505-528, pp. 513-516. z8 See ECJ judgment of 24 January 1991, case C-339/89, Alsthom Atlantique. This judg- ment declares - over dictum - that rules which the parties are free not to apply by choosing a different applicable law can not be considered restrictions on Community freedoms prohibited by the ECJ. z9 See S. Grundmann, "The Structure ...", loc. cit., pp. 517-521.

30 See M.W. Hesselink, The New European Private Law, The Hague, Kluwer, 2002, pp. 238-239. " Cf. J.A. Alfaro Aguila-Real, "La unificaci6n....", loc. cit., p. 110. 'z For all these, highlighting certain manifestations of that diversity, see S. Sanchez Lorenzo, Derecho ..., op. cit., pp. 225-271; and id., "What Do We Mean when We Say Folklore? Cultural and Axiological Diversities as a Limit for a European Private Law", ERPL, 2006, pp. 197-219, pp. 213-216. 33 See D. Kennedy, "The Political Stakes in 'Merely Technical' Issues of Contract Law", ERPL, vol. 10, 2002, pp. 7-28, pp. 26-27.

�^ See L. Diez Picazo y Ponce de Le6n, "Reforma de los C6digos y Derecho europeo", Anuario de Derecho Civil, vol. 56, 2003, pp. 1565-1574, pointing out that reform of national codes is a necessary premise for the achievement of uniform contract law among the Member States. 35 See E. Hondius, "Finding the Law in a New Millennium: Prospects for the Development of Civil Law in the European Union", M. Bussani and U. Mattei (eds.), The Common Core of European Private Law, The Hague, 2003, pp. 79-103, pp. 89-95. 36 See H. Collins, "The Freedom to Circulate Documents: Regulating Contracts in Europe", European Law Journal, Vol. 10, 2004, pp. 787-803, pp. 795-796.

" Cf. G.A., Bermann, "A Commentary ... ', loc. cit., p. 54. '8 Cf. W. Fikentscher, "Harmonizing national and Federal European Private Laws, and a Plea for a Conflicts-of-law Approach", M. Bussani and U. Mattei (eds.), The Common ..., ., loc. cit, pp. 43-48, p. 47. 39 Cf T. Wilhelmsson, "Private Law in the EU: Harmonised or Fragmented European- isation", EIPR, 2002, pp. 77-94, p. 90. 40 See E. Steindorff, "Mehr staatliche Identitat, Biirgernahe und Subsidiaritat in Europa?", ZHR, vol. 163, 1999, pp. 395�40, pp. 412-413.

" See C. González Beilfuss, "Relaciones e interacciones entre Derecho comunitario, Derecho intemacional privado y derecho de familia europeo en la construcci6n de un espacio judicial comun", Anuario espanol de Derecho internacional privador, t. IV, 2004, pp. 117-186, pp. 179-180. az Cf K.D. Kerameus, "Problems of Drafting a European Civil Code", ERPL, 1997, pp. 475-481, pp. 478�179. 43 See "Social ...", loc. cit., pp. 656-657. 44 This was illustrated by the content of the Communication from the Commission "A more coherent European Contract Law. An Action Plan" of 2003, which offers practically no justification of the ambitious proposal for unification of private law that it contemplates.

as See H. Collins, "European Private Law and the Cultural Identity of States", ERPL, vol. 3, 1995, pp. 353-365, pp. 359-363. 46 see T.K. Graziano, "Die Zukunft der Zivilrechtskodifikation in Europa - Harmonisierung der alten Gesetzbiicher oder Schaffung eines neuen? - LJberlegungen anldsslich des 200. Jahrestags des franzosischen Code civil", ZeuP, vol. 13, 2005, pp. 523-540, pp. 532- 537. 47 See F. Esteban de la Rosa, "La aplicaci6n de las directivas comunitarias en materia de Derecho privado a las situaciones transfronterizas", S. Sanchez Lorenzo and M. Moya Escudero (eds.), La cooperacion judicial en materia civil y la unificacion del Derecho privado en Europa, Madrid, 2003, pp. 179-204; and B. Anoveros Terradas, Los con- tratos de consumo intracomunitarios, Madrid, 2003, pp. 199-220. 48 See ECJ judgment of 9 November 2000, case C-381/98, Ingmar. a9 Cf. W. Van Gerven, "Harmonization of Private Law: Do We Need it?", CMLRev, vol. 41, 2004, pp. 505-532, p. 531.

so See J.C. Fernandez Rozas, "Lex mercatoria y autonomia conflictual en la contratacion transnacional", Anuario espanol de Derecho internacional privado, t. IV, 2004, pp. 35-78, pp. 62-73; and N. Bouza Vidal, "La elecci6n conflictual de una normativa no estatal sobre contratos internacionales desde una perspectiva europea", Pacis Artes. Obra homenaje al prof. J.D. González Campos, Madrid, 2005, pp. 1308-1334, pp. 1326-1334. this is apparent in the revision of Article 3 of the Rome Convention of 1980, in the terms of the Proposal for a Regulation on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I), COM (2005) 650 final, which expressly contemplates the possibility that the parties may choose a set of non-State rules as applicable to the contract, devised specifically to allow the parties to refer to a document like the UNIDROIT Principles, the European Principles of Contract Law or some optional instrument drawn up in the EU, cf. COM (2005) 650 final, p. 5. This proposal of amendment does not substantially alter what is already possible with a proper interpretation of Article 3 of the Rome Convention, as there is nothing in the existing legal framework to prevent reference for example to the UNIDROIT Principles, which in practice should mean that the law applicable in absence of choice is relevant only in respect of issues not addressed in the Principles when the parties have chosen to apply the Principles; see P.A. De Miguel Asensio, "Armonizaci6n normativa y regimen juridico de los contratos mercantiles interna- cionales", Diritto del commercio internazionale, vol. 12, 1998, pp. 859-883, 872-878. 52 see J.C. Femdndez Rozas, lus mercatorum (Autorregulacion y unificaci6n del Derecho de los negocios transnacionales), Madrid, 2003, pp. 113-282. 53 see for example P. Behrens, "Voraussetzungen und Grenzen der Rechtsfortbildung durch

cont. Rechtsvereinheitlichung", RabelsZ, vol. 50, 1986, 19-34, pp. 31-32; and H. Kronke, "Ziele - Methoden, Kosten - Nutzen: Perspektiven der Privatrechtsharmonisierung nach 75 Jahren UNIDROIT", JZ, vol. 56, 2001, pp. 1149-1157, pp. 1152-1154. �" See M.J. Bonell, "Do We Need a Global Commercial Code?", Dickinson Law Review, vol. 106, 2001, pp. 87-100, pp. 89-95, although it should be stressed that world-wide regulations ought to be limited to regulating international transactions. ss See W.J. Woodward, Jr, "Private Legislation in the United States - How the Uniform Commercial Code Becomes Law", Temple Law Review, vol. 72, 1999, pp. 451-466.

sb See A. Reich, "The WTO as a Law-Harmonizing Institution", University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law, vol. 25, 2004, pp. 321-382, pp. 359-368. 57 Cf. A.T. Guzman, "Choice of Law: New Foundations", Georgetown Law Journal, vol. 90, 2002, pp. 883-940, pp. 936-937.

sg Cf. A. Reich, "The WTO ...", loc. cit., pp. 357-358. 59 See J.C. Fernandez Rozas, "EI derecho de los contratos en el marco de la unificaci6n jurfdica del derecho privado de la Union Europea", Liber Amicorum en homenaje al prof. D. Opertti Badari, Montevideo, 2005, nos. 20-23.

60 See W. Van Gerven, "Codifying European Private Law", 2002, at . 61 COM (2003) 68 final of 12 February 2003 (DO 2003 C 63/1). bz Cf. G. Canivet and H. Muir Watt, "Europeanisation du droit prive et justice sociale", ZEuP, vol. 13, 2005, pp. 517-522, p. 517. 6 See D. Kennedy, "The Political ...", loc. cit., pp. 7-28.

64 of M.W. Hesselink, "The Politics of a European Civil Code", European Law Journal, vol. 10, 2004, pp. 675-697, p. 677. 65 "Communication from the Commission - European Contract Law and the revision of the acquis: the way forward", COM (2004) 651 final. The 2005 Council and Commission Action Plan implementing the Hague Programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union of 2005 (Official Journal C 198 of 12/08/2005) envisages the completion of a final research report in 2007 including a draft common frame of reference in the sphere of European contract law and the adoption of the common frame of reference, envisaged for 2009. 6' Cf. B. Zypries, "Der Aktionsplan fur ein koharentes europaisches Vertragsrecht der Kommission - oder: Was ist zu tun im Europaischen Vertragsrecht", ZEuP, vol. 12, 2004, pp. 225-233, p. 228. See B. Pozzo, "Harmonisation of European Contract Law and the Need of Creating a Common Terminology", ERPL, 2003, pp. 754-767, pp. 763-766. 69 COM (2004) 651 final, p. 3.

70 See U. Mattei, The European Codification Process (Cut and Paste), The Hague, 2003, p. 69; and M.W. Hesselink, "The Politics ...", loc. cit., p. 688. 71 See Report from the Commission - First Annual Progress Report on European Contract Law and the Acquis Review, 23 September 2005, COM (2005) 456 final, where there are obvious imbalances in the origin of the members of the Network: there are 35 German representatives; the next largest contingent comes from the United Kingdom with 25 followed by Italy with 10, while France has 8 and Spain 7 - a situation that reflects the traditionally scant participation of southern European countries in these activ- ities. It is also striking that Poland should only have two representatives (as compared to 35 from Germany). 'z See M.A. Eisenberg, "Why is American Contract Law so Uniform? - National Law in the United States", H.L. Weyers (Hrsg.), Europaisches Vertragsrecht, Baden-Baden, 1997, pp. 23�3, pp. 30�2.

" See B.S. Markesinis, "Why a Code is not the Best Way to Advance the Cause of European Legal Unity", ERPL, 1997, pp. 519-524, pp. 522-523. 74 see R. Schulze, "Le droit prive commun europeen", Revue internationale de droit com- pari, vol. 47, 1995, pp. 7-32, pp. 18-28. 75 See C. Schmid, "Anfange einer transnationalen Privatrechtswissenschaft in Europa", ZfRV, 1999, pp. 213-222, pp. 215-220. 76 One of the pioneering works in this area is R. Zimmermann, The Law of Obligations. Roman Foundations of the Civil Tradition, The Hague, 1990; and pioneering reference works in this line, in the sphere of contracts and contractual obligations respectively, are H. Kotz, Europdisches Vertragsrecht, vol. I, Tubingen, 1996; and C. Von Bar, Gemein- europdisches Deliktsrecht, vol. I, Munich, 1996. " See U. Mattei, The European ..., op. cit., pp. 118-119.

'$ Bearing in mind that this could be an initial solution pending the eventual adoption of a regulatory instrument in the form of an international convention, see A.M. L6pez Rodriguez, Lex Mercatoria and HarmoniZation of Contract Law in the EU, Copenhagen, 2003, pp. 263-264. '9 Cf. A. Rosett, "Unification, Harmonization, Restatement, Codification and Reform in International Commercial Law", AJCL, vol. 40, 1992, pp. 683-697, pp. 694-695.

80 In particular, whether the parties will have to opt in (the default is non-application) or opt out (the default is application of the instrument); while the first alternative seems the more reasonable (since the second adds little to the non-mandatory nature of the rules) and is similar in structure to other Community legal institutions that coexist with national provisions, in the sphere of contracts its practical utility is doubtful since par- ties are hardly likely to take up this option given fear of the unknown (and for exam- ple the absence of any body of case law), cf. J. Basedow, "Ein optionales Europaisches Vertragsgesetz - opt-in, opt-out, wozu uberhaupt?", ZEuP, vol. 12, 2004, pp. 1-4, p. 2. 81 Cf. S. Sanchez Lorenzo, "La unificacion del Derecho comercial internacional", Globalizacion y comercio internacional (Actas de las XX Jornadas de la AEPDlRI), Madrid, 2005, pp. 239-265, pp. 248-249.

82 While the harmonising force of the European Principles may be enhanced by their lim- ited geographical scope and by the fact of having been conceived for both international and internal transactions, for the moment they have had less impact on contract practice than the UNIDROIT Principles, largely because the international and non-binding nature of the latter is especially well suited to the needs of international business. 83 This is expressly mentioned in connection with the procedure for drafting the common frame of reference in the First Annual Progress Report on European Contract Law of the Commission, COM (2005) 456 final, p. 5. 84 See H. Heiss and N. Downes, "Non-Optional Elements in an Optional European Contract Law: Reflections from a Private International Law Perspective", ERPL, 2005, pp. 693-712, pp. 697-699.

85 See F. Esteban de la Rosa, "La aplicacion ...", loc. cit., pp. 178-204. $6 Cf. S. Sanchez Lorenzo, "La funcion de las tecnicas conflictuales en los procesos de unificaci6n del Derecho privado material", PacisArtes. Obra homenaje al prof. J.D. González Campos, Madrid, 2005, pp. 1765-1786, p. 1785.

87 See J.D. Gonzalez Campos, "Diritto ...", loc. cit., pp. 56-61, referring to these draw- backs and the inadequate basis of the analyses of those who emphasise them. $$ See PA. De Miguel Asensio, "Conflictos de leyes e integraci6n juridica: Estados Unidos y la Union Europea", Anuario espanol de Derecho internacional privado, vol. V, 2005, pp. 43-102, pp. 98-102.

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