Developing strategies to foster economic growth, with a particular emphasis on SMEs, is one of the EU’s key priorities. In this thematic week we focus on legal initiatives currently on the table to aid business and economic growth in Europe.
Streamlining legal rules regarding businesses activity
Business law is the legal backbone of economic activity. It is crucial that European companies benefit from an optimal legal regime as regards their organisation, restructuring, winding-up, business transactions and debt collection. In order to improve the efficiency of EU rules on insolvency, the Commission has recently tabled a proposal to amend them. This topic is likely to be discussed in plenary in February 2014, our briefing gives you a preview of the issue.
A flagship Commission initiative, Common European Sales Law (CESL), soon to be voted in plenary, aims to give European businesses and consumers access to a single, EU-wide set of rules governing sales contracts (see our keysource). Notably, the CESL would extend the protection against unfair terms (hitherto available, under EU law, only to consumers), also to SMEs which, due to a weaker bargaining power, are often forced to accept disadvantageous contract terms. For more details, see our briefing on unfair contract terms.
Not all transactions end as expected and not all debtors pay on time. As many as one million European small businesses experience problems annually in collecting cross-border debts. A remedy to the situation is the European Order for Payment, whose legal framework and practical functioning are analysed in our briefing.
The Single Market requires the loyal cooperation of the Member States, who are obliged to implement EU directives on time. This, however, is not always the case, and there is still room for improvement. In February 2013 the Parliament adopted a report on the topic: our briefing explains.
Developing an EU intellectual property legal framework
The importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) – including copyright (in books, films and music), patents (protecting industrial inventions) and trademarks (protecting corporate brands) – for the EU economy is immense. According to a recent report, as much 39% of total business activity in Europe is generated by IPR-intensive industries. However, IP law not only aims at protecting industry rights, but also needs to balance them with freedom of speech, freedom of artistic expression and citizens’ access to culture. We focus on the conflicting interests involved in the burgeoning field of EU trademark law in our recent briefing on this topic. Another area worth exploring is the collective management of copyright, for books, music or films. At present, these issues are regulated at national level, but the Commission believes they ought to be harmonised. As the proposal awaits a first reading in Parliament, our recently updated keysource walks you through the topic.
Gender balance in the economy
The Commission considers that gender imbalance in positions of economic power is a waste of the skills of highly qualified women, and a loss of potential for economic growth. Despite existing anti-discrimination legislation, women are still under-represented in senior positions (see Women and the glass ceiling). The Commission has put forward a proposal providing for affirmative action in favour of attaining greater gender balance on boards of listed companies. As our briefing describes, the matter was voted in Parliament last month.
Books, journals and legal databases (available to MEPs and EP staff only)
For further reading consult some of the leading journals on the topic, available (in digital form) from the EP Library, such as the Common Market Law Review, European Business Law Review, European Business Organization Law Review, European Company Law, European Intellectual Property Review or the Intellectual Property Quarterly (the latter two accessible via our Westlaw subscription). The Library holdings also comprise a number of recently published books on those topics, such as Intellectual property and human rights (2013), International intellectual property law and human security (2013), a comprehensive German commentary on the EU insolvency regulation (2013) as well as a monumental, 789-page collection of essays analysing the Common European Sales Law in Context (2013).
MEPs and EP staff have access to a number of legal databases subscribed to by the Library, where a host of legal materials can be found, in particular the already mentioned Westlaw, and HeinOnline. We also hold a subscription to a specialised news database dedicated to IP law – the World Intellectual Property Report, provided by Bloomberg.
FInally, MEPs and EP staff wishing be kept up-to-date with newly selected publications and information sources related to the topics covered by this thematic week can subscribe to one of our tailor-made alerts.