Written by Rafał Mańko
On Friday, 26 June 2015, the EPRS Citizens’ Policies Unit, in cooperation with the European Added Value Unit, held a Policy Hub devoted to the Europeanisation of Civil Procedure. Moderated by Etienne Bassot, Director of the Members’ Research Service, the Policy Hub brought experts in the field like Stefaan Voet and Bart Krans together for a lively debate with the European Parliament’s policy analysts.
Presenting a general overview of the policy field, Rafał Mańko, Policy Analyst with the Citizens’ Policies Unit, and author of the recently published EPRS in-depth analysis on the topic, opened the discussion. He highlighted the importance of building mutual trust between the judiciaries of EU Member States in times of increasing free movement of civil judgments across the European Area of Justice. Stefaan Voet, Lecturer in Civil Procedure at the University of Ghent, and a leading expert in the subject, led the discussion on the development of class actions in Europe and in the United States in the context of the recent Commission recommendation on collective redress, with Tatjana Evas from the EPRS European Added Value Unit as discussant. The debate was also enriched with active contributions from Professor Bart Krans of the University of Groningen.
Mutual trust and minimum standards
Following the presentations, the Policy Hub focused on the importance of building mutual trust amongst EU judiciaries. One mutual trust-building method could be the enactment of an instrument laying down European minimum standards for civil procedure, perhaps in the legal form of a directive. The European Law Institute, together with Unidroit, is currently working on drafting a set of principles of European civil procedure. In the future, such principles may be used as a basis for a European instrument.
European added value
Another aspect raised was the European added value of minimum standards of civil procedure. It was argued that such added value would be a consequence of increased legal certainty and transparency. Furthermore, the coherence between various existing EU instruments on civil procedure, as well as judge-made rules in this area (e.g. with regard to unfair terms in consumer contracts), would make it easier for lawyers and judges in the Member States to apply EU rules of civil procedure. An example of an area where, despite the existence of EU rules, they are very rarely applied, is the European Small Claims Procedure.
The Policy Hub was an excellent occasion for an informal exchange of views between EPRS policy analysts, external experts, as well as administrators working in the Policy Departments and Committee Secretariats. It was the last event of its kind before the Parliament’s summer recess. In September, the EPRS will welcome Professor Martijn Hesselink from the University of Amsterdam, who will talk about European contract law under the Juncker Commission. The Citizens’ Policies Unit is currently working on an in-depth analysis on this topic to appear later this year.