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European Law Monitor newsEuropean citizens and businesses to benefit from greater legal certainty and greater access to justice

Following endorsement by the Council on 7 December 2007, and by the European Parliament in November, a regulation harmonising the rules concerning the law applicable to contractual obligations (to be known as "Rome I") has been approved. The regulation, building on the fundamental principle that the governing law of a contract is that agreed by the contracting parties, provides citizens and companies of the European Union the security to enter into a contract in the knowledge that courts in all the Member States will apply the same principles on those cross-border elements of contractual disputes. In turn, this will facilitate the mutual recognition of court decisions in the European Union.

The Rome I Regulation will ensure a proper balance is struck between the interests of the various parties involved in a cross-border dispute and identifying the law which is most appropriate. Consumers, in particular, will benefit from better protection under the new rules, which are fully consistent with the common rules of jurisdiction laid down by the "Brussels I" Regulation of 22 December 2000. For example, the Regulation seeks to clarify the applicable law when a consumer buys a product on the internet from a company located in another Member State.

Vice-President of the Commission, and Commissioner responsible for Justice Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini, congratulated the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union on an ambitious legislative programme on civil justice matters and said "This is an important piece of legislation both for the completion of the European Area of Justice and for the proper functioning of the internal market. With the adoption of this Regulation, harmonising the rules concerning the law applicable to contractual obligations, the European Union is providing citizens and companies operating in its territory with an ambitious legislative tool box on civil justice matters. This proposal will provide much needed legal certainty, benefiting the increasing cross border nature of trade and commercial transactions."

The Rome I Regulation is a further success achieved under the Portuguese Presidency to make the European Union a leading proponent of a transparent, efficient and competitive area of civil justice. These include:

     1. The Regulation establishing a European Small Claims Procedure, which, simplifies and speeds up small claims litigation in cross-border cases, whilst reducing costs of proceedings.
     2. Decision establishing the Specific Programme of "Civil Justice" for the period 2007-2013.
     3. The amendment of Council Regulation on the Service of Documents.
     4. Common position on draft Mediation Directive encouraging the use of mediation as a fast and economical method for resolving cross-border civil and commercial disputes.
     5. The new Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters between the EC and Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
     6. Recently, a Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance and a Protocol on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations were adopted.
     7. Agreements between the European Union and Denmark extending to them the "Brussels I" Regulation on jurisdiction and recognition and enforcement of judgement in civil matters and the Regulation on the Service of documents.

The advantages brought by such instruments to citizens, businesses and courts are consistent with the objective of creating a European area of freedom and justice which is both transparent, fair and accessible. In particular, the common rules adopted in this area creates a very tangible area of civil judicial cooperation. Europeans citizens and businesses will benefit from greater legal certainty and greater access to justice.
For further information on civil justice matters:

IP/07/821 Council adopts common position concerning Regulation establishing a European Small Claims Procedure

IP/07/1630 Strengthening co-operation in civil and commercial matters with Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland

IP/07/977 The European Community and Denmark further judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters as two agreements enter into force

IP/07/679 European Union brings in harmonised rules on law applicable to civil liability ("Rome II" Regulation)
To find out more about Vice President Frattini's work please visit his website: