Consumers and Food Labelling – New Survey

Yummy or Yucky?

“What’s in a name?” asked a Capulet to her Montague, “That which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet!” While that may be the case, I suspect that, without accurate food labelling, the Juliet of today’s world would not be able to affirm with certain conviction what exactly goes into her lithe form when she downs a Starbucks trenta or microwaves the local supermarket’s ready-made lasagna. Food nutrition is an important aspect of healthy living (the other being exercising). You are, literally, what you eat. Studies have shown that the type and quantity of food intake determines a person’s mood, energy level, and even intelligence (there may soon be on the market a Gatorade for the brain). At the societal level, ensuring healthy eating reduces the burden on healthcare resulting from malnutritional or obesity related ailments (I’m reminded of a rather clever but shortlived 2008 BBC miniseries entitled “The Supersizers” which explored changing diet and calorie intake through the ages).

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CROBECO (Cross Border Electronic Conveyancing of Land) update: systems of publication-problems?

A while ago I reported on the first CROBECO (Cross Border Electronic Conveyancing of Land) conference held in Brussels in November 2010. Much has happened since and it is well worth to mention some of the developments for those following the project.

The conference raised a lot of interest in the project, but also focussed our attention on significant legal objections to its further success. These concern first of all the different nature of land registration systems in the European Union. It is generally known that there are two types of registration systems, although there are of course many differences between all states. The first are positive systems, or better title registration systems, that directly register the correct property entitlement to land. In such a system the force of the State basically guarantees the correctness of the register. The registrar will therefore examine the validity of the data presented to him or her. Hence they are known as positive. The best two European examples of such systems are Germany (with its Grundbuch) and England (with its Land Register). The other type of system is a negative system or deeds registry system, whereby transfer-deeds are received and those are registered. Subsequently there is often another registry, known as Cadastre in which, on the basis of this public registry, entitlement of land is administered. These systems are known as negative because the registry ‘simply’ administers the data it receives, without going into the validity of it.
Contrary to what is usually held by lawyers from positive (or title) systems, both systems have their advantages. The main difference between the two is speed. In a positive system, the investigation undertaken by the registrar can take up to three months (or even more as I understood recently). A negative (or deeds) system will enable registration within a matter of seconds if it’s done electronically. This difference is not just a technicality: registration is a constitutive requirement for the transfer of ownership of land. Without it, no title to land (ownership in civil law terminology) can pass from the seller to the buyer. In 1997 this was illustrated by the House of Lords (now Supreme Court) in the Scots case of Sharp v. Thomson 1997 SC (HL) 66 where the buyer had paid the purchase price to the seller already, but registration was not yet completed when a property security right (floating charge) of the seller attached to his business. The buyer did not receive ownership yet as conveyance (transfer) had not yet been completed, and was left with a concurrent claim in restitution for the return of the purchase price.

For CROBECO the difference between these two systems is essential as the role of the notary or notary public depends very much on the type of registration system that is adhered to. Most of the time positive-registration-system-lawyers cannot understand how a negative system can function at all. Of course, and the Netherlands adheres to such a negative system, this is untrue, the system generally functions very well. Here the role of checking the validity of the parties, the transaction and the property data is for the notary, who will be liable in case of a mistake that can be attributed to him or her. Hence, the information the land register received and on the basis of which the Cadastre (Kadaster in the Netherlands) is updated, will be correct. But, and this must be admitted, mistakes can be made and there are situations, such as passing of ownership on death, in which a negative system can portray incorrect information.

The relation and interplay between the notary and the registry is the central element of the CROBECO project. The Netherlands and Spain are both adhering to a negative system and as far as I know, there are not that many differences in our approach that make it impossible to overcome these for a successful conveyance. However, let’s assume the project would receive a broader scope and a positive-registration-system, say Germany, would be included. How would a German registrar treat a document that is offered by a foreign notary? Assuming this can be done in German law, which is not entirely sure, German registrars would get very nervous.
This nervousness is the core of the next potential CROBECO-problem. Any property law system, by its very nature, operates with a purely internal perspective. Hence, foreign influence is regarded as dangerous and usually stopped: this is the lex rei sitae in operation. Sjef van Erp drew attention to this antagonism in 2006 for the first time, but the meaning of his words receive more meaning as we dive more into substantive property law matters. Even worse, perhaps one of the most nationalistically oriented aspects of property law is the conveyance of land and, as a part of that, the intricate relationship between the notary and the registrar. Add the nationalistic perspective of any purely domestic trained property lawyer (see my previous post), i.e. the natural sense of superiority of one’s own system, and we have a recipe for our potential CROBECO-problem.

Of course the solution is at hand already: As I reported before CROBECO is based on trust between registrars, who in their turn maintain a relationship of trust with their notaries. It is therefore a matter of the circle of trust between negative-system registrars and positive system-registrars.
This is, of course, just the general solution to a very technical problem.

In order to overcome this we need:

1. More knowledge on land registration systems in the EU
2. More knowledge on the property relations that are part of this
3. More knowledge on the content and nature of the relationship between notaries and registrars

Points 1 and 2 are part of what we do at M-EPLI, but I have come to realise that point 3 is perhaps the most important for the success of CROBECO. In all of these we must not shy away from closely examining the compatibility of national property and registry rules with European Union Law. Many rules that domestic-property lawyers not even consider can create problems in Europe’s internal market. A fantastic example is the pending Dutch case on the nationality requirement for notaries. Antagonism does not cover these ‘nationalists’, since they are not even aware of a European Union influence.
CROBECO does not seek to change the national property law and registration rules, but instead intends to work with them in a pragmatic way. However, in doing so, light is shed on problems that have remained hidden so far. It raises immediate questions of EU law, especially relating to non-discrimination and free movement (mostly of capital).

More news on this, especially as CROBECO expands, will follow.

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New Blog – European Public Health Law & Policy

It started shortly before we did late last summer, but we’ve only just heard about this nice initiative. Our Maastricht colleagues at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, have started blogging on recent developments in law and policy at the European level as well as in national healthcare systems. This is of course an area of public regulation whose developments (in the direction of greater competition) impact on specific categories of consumers. We ourselves will be keeping an eye on their posts via the link on the right hand column of this blog.
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Pasta, Piazzas and Private Laws

February, according to our very kind host Prof Hans Micklitz, is probably the best time to visit Florence. An invitation for a two-day workshop (last Friday and Saturday) was duly extended and delightfully accepted. A delegation of junior researchers from M-EPLI (myself included) were more than content to replace Dutch cobblestone with Fiorentine paintings and busts, jong belegen with riccota and mozzarella. Not being the only visitors, we were also happy to meet up with our Finnish counterparts from the University of Helsinki (led by the decidely erudite Prof Pia Letto-Vanamo). Their Centre of Excellence for European Law and Polity does very interesting and current work. I will just briefly mention Johan Barlund‘s work on how European legislation in the area of comparative advertising is implemented in the national legal orders. Not simply research of a legal comparative nature, it involves strands from the vast market research literature and cultural attitudes on what is fair or unfair in advertising. This is but one example of the interesting and varied work done there and M-EPLI is proud to be associated with them.
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