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European Commission consults on Rome II – a law for cross-border disputes

The European Commission on Friday launched a consultation on a revised draft proposal for a Council regulation known as Rome II which aims to harmonise the rules that will apply in cross-border, non-contractual disputes, in any situation involving a choice between the laws of different countries.07 May 2002

The objective is to ensure that courts of all Member States apply the same law to cross-border disputes on non-contractual obligations, thus facilitating the mutual recognition of judicial decisions throughout the European Union.

António Vitorino, Commisionner for Justice and Home Affairs, said:

"As long as the solution of disputes in such an important matter is subject to differences from one Member State to another for the mere reason that their courts apply different laws, there will be no genuine area of justice in Europe."

Rome II will determine which laws apply in cases of, for example, defamation, unfair competition, pollution or defectiveness of products. In cases of defamation, the law applicable shall be the law of the country where the victim is habitually resident at the time. In cases of unfair competition, the law shall be that of the country where the unfair competition affects competitive relations or consumers.

At this stage, the Member States have no common rules on the law applicable to such obligations. Thus solutions may vary from one Member State to another and the parties may be incited to choose to sue another party in the court that they believe will apply the law which is the most favourable to them, a practice known as "forum shopping".

The jurisdiction of courts and the recognition and enforcement of judgements given in another Member State are already the subject of the Regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters, which applies to both contractual and non-contractual obligations. With respect of choice of law rules applicable to contracts, they have been harmonised in the 1980 Rome Convention on the law applicable to contractual obligations. Also, the present initiative will complete the harmonisation at Community level of private international law rules with respect of civil and commercial obligations.

This is not the first consultation on Rome II. Last year, after an initial consultation, the Commission commented that further consultation would be “a waste of taxpayers’ money”.

Comments can be sent before 15th September 2002 to Directorate-General for Justice and Home Affairs at JAI-coop-jud-civil@cec.eu.int

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