While negligence disputes are within the scope of the Rome II proposal, a provision on defamation was dropped during negotiations that have run since 2003. Now Diana Wallis, a former litigator, is lobbying to get it back in.
Wallis, a Liberal Democrat, is the European Parliament's Rapporteur on Rome II. She told EUobserver.com: "With so many articles being published on the web I am concerned that we will get into a situation where ordinary people will find themselves facing legal confusion."
The Rome II Regulation aims to achieve legal clarity when the laws of two EU member states conflict and no contract provides a resolution. Its provision on cross border defamation cases was dropped because it proved to be too controversial.
The original proposal was that the law which should govern a case should be that of the country where the person who claimed to have been defamed lived. Media organisations objected, saying that any publisher would need to know the defamation laws of all member states in order to publish any article.
Wallis wants the Rome II Regulation to deal with defamation, but wants the applicable law to be that of the country in which the article is published, so that publishers only have to consider one set of defamation laws.
The European Parliament's legal affairs committee will decide whether to back the re-adoption of a defamation rule, and that vote is expected to take place in December.
"This is an area of great concern," says a statement on Wallis's web site. "Following a decision by the Commission to withdraw defamation from the scope of the Regulation, the issue has been relegated to the general review clause, which will not occur before another four years. Clearly, this issue will continue to haunt us and the European Parliament should at least have the opportunity to reconsider the stance it took with an overwhelming majority at first reading."