4th HiiL Conference on The Law of the Future – 23-24 June 2011

On June 23-24 M-EPLI fellow Jan Smits and M-EPLI student fellows Catalina Goanta and Anna Berlee participated in the Hague Institute on the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL) conference on the Law of the Future (LOTF) held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands. At the conference Maastricht University provided for a workshop called ‘The Youth, the Law and the Future’, detailed in a previous post. Jan Smits was chair of the workshop and the two M-EPLI student fellows together with other students from various universities provided for feedback on the six presentations by the Maastricht MARBLE group. Next to the fruitful discussions that ensued from these presentations and reviews by the audience attending the workshop (such as Former ICJ Vice-President Christopher Weeramantry) the HiiL Conference provided some five other workshops on the future of law and the law of the future, with topics such as Informal International Law-making, Highest Courts and Private Actors.The Conference featured several keynote speakers, among which the aforementioned Judge Christopher Weeramantry, Professor Ewoud Hondius (Utrecht University), Patrick Glenn (McGill University) and M-EPLI director Jan Smits each of whom raised interesting perspectives on how law will evolve in the upcoming decades.

One of the highlights was the announcing of winner of the Innovating Justice Awards. An award for initiative stimulating innovation in the justice sector. Among the finalists were initiatives in the area of criminal law and procedural law. However, the winner was the Innovation from Programa Interamericano de Facilitadores Judiciales: Service of Judicial Facilitators which promotes access to justice through a mechanism of citizen participation.

The workshop topics already indicated were examined within the light of the three scenarios put forth by HiiL in its Law of the Future Joint Action Programme. These are: Legal Borders, Legal Internet and Global Constitution. The conference was concluded with the recommendations by a panel consisting of the workshop chairs in an attempt to analyse whether and how the current legal developments fit within the three scenarios described.

What is interesting to note about the discourses of many academics taking part in the conference is their call for legal studies to be designed in a more interdisciplinary fashion with regard to not only the national systems, but also the developments on an international level. As two students in their last phases of their studies, we can only support this viewpoint. Both of us have benefitted from the Maastricht Law Faculties emphasis on comparative research as well as its eye for current and future developments of the law.

All in all, a very stimulating and inspiring conference which holds great promise for the future (of law).

~ Catalina Goanta & Anna Berlee

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The Maastricht Project on European Contract Law – Conference on 8 July 2011

A while ago, Jan Smits wrote about the project that he and I started with our European Law School students on European Contract Law. During the course, that ended last Friday (17 June 2011). During this project, named the Maastricht Project on European Contract Law, some 60 of our students formed an alternative expert group on European Contract Law, developing rules for the internal market of the European Union. They were divided in teams on formation of contracts, remedies, sale of goods and security interests. The results, I must say, are impressive.

A small group of students from the Maastricht Project is continuing the work on the project under the heading of the MARBLE for Excellence project (Maastricht University Research Based Learning). Besides the co-coordination of the general project, they are undertaking individual and group research projects on issues in European private law. A website was opened to show their work to the outside world: www.maastrichtproject.eu. On this website we will present the research results of our students, both the rules for the internal market as well as the research project, in the next few weeks.

On 8 July 2011 the Maastricht Project students organise a conference in Brussels, at the Maastricht University Campus Brussels. Everyone is welcome to attend and registration can be made without costs at www.maastrichtproject.eu.
Finally, some of the work of the students is still going and they could use your help. A group of students is trying to measure consumer opinion on the use of an optional instrument of European contract law. If you have 5 minutes available, please help them by filling in their survey at: http://www.thesistools.com/web/?id=205207

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European Property Rights and Wrongs: the role of the EU in protecting the right to property – ALDE Seminar – European Parliament 14 June 2011

On 14 June 2011 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Diana Wallis VP MEP and Ramon Tremosa MEP organised a seminar on European property law. The seminar was instigated by the many complaints the Parliament (and the Commission) receives over the years from citizens experiencing difficulties during of after the acquisition of property rights in another Member State. Speakers included (in order of appearance) representative from victims organisations from Empuriabrava Brigtte Anquetil, M-EPLI Fellows dr. Bram Akkermans and Professor Sjef van Erp, Professor Peter Sparkes form the University of Southamption, pacticing lawyer Andrew Walker QC, President Gabriel Alonso Landeta of the European Land Registration Association (ELRA), Xavier Ibarrondo from Eurojuris. Surprise speakers included mr. David Lowe from the European Parliament secretariat supporting the EPs Petitions Committee and mr. Joftsa Petri from the European Commission DG Justice.

During the seminar, which is really the first time that one of the EU’s Institutions pays elaborate attention to matters of property law, especially land law, we discussed current problems of cross-border conveyancing, current and future approaches of European Union law and practical solutions to existing problems. M-EPLI fellows Bram Akkermans and Sjef van Erp contributed on the current and future state of property law in the European Union.

It seems clear that there are an increasing number of EU citizens acquiring ownership or other property rights on land in other Member States. When you think about it, freedom of ownership underlies any free market economy and should therefore be a fundamental aspect of European integration. From that point of view it therefore remarkable that there is not really any European property law, something that several speakers remarked upon. Of course property law is a sensitive issue for Member States and as such forms a barrier when speaking about property law in the European Union. Mr. David Lowe, head of the secretariat to the petitions committee of the European Parliament during the event even went as far as quoting Article 345 TFEU that states that the treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules of the Member States governing the system of property ownership and that therefore there might be a problem with the competence of the EU in this field. This is, luckily, increasingly becoming a less supported viewpoint as more and more property lawyers take another view. The Helsinki seminar that I reported on before, dealt explicitly with this question.

Moreover, it is not entirely clear that legislative intervention is the best solution. Gabriel Alonso Landeta, president of ELRA, presented the CROBECO project, to which I also paid attention before. The CROBECO project exactly tries to solve legal problems by making use of existing law, rather then relying on European legislative action to make cross-border conveyancing work.

It is clear that this is just the beginning. European Commission representative mr. Joftsa Petri stated that although problems are clear, we have work to do to find suitable European solutions. Written contributions are planned to be published later this year.

UPDATE 5 July 2011: a video is now available on youtube

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What Role for Property in European Integration? An Exchange of Ideas between Maastricht and Helsinki – 7 June 2011

On 7 June 2011 the Centre of Excellence in Foundations of European Law and Polity at the University of Helsinki organised a seminar on the occasion of the publication of a paper of M-EPLI fellows Bram Akkermans and Eveline Ramaekers on the meanings and interpretations of Article 345 TFEU that states that ‘the treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules of the member states governing the system of property ownership.’

We got the opportunity to extensively present and clarify our view on property law and competences of the European Union in the field of property law after which Helsinki fellows Fernando Losada, Teemu Juutilainen, Katri Havu and Juha Vesala contributed their views on the role and meaning of Article 345 TFEU and (intellectual) property in Europe.

We had a most wonderful event in which we extensively discussed (1) Article 345 TFEU, (2) a legal basis for European property law, (3) the method of interpretation best to be used to interpret the EU Treaties, (4) the role and the content of the Nordic perspective, especially the Realist legal thinking and, (5) finally the (EU) constitutional perspective.

Perhaps the most interesting thing of the whole day was that in the end we did not disagree as much as we perhaps would have expected before we started. Although we have different views we all share the view that Article 345 TFEU does not form an obstacle for future European property law. Very interesting was the contribution of the Helsinki team to the governance debate in European private law, arguing us to be careful about the distribution of powers between the EU and the Member States. This, I think, addresses feeling often shared by national property lawyers that ‘their’ property law should not be (easily) subject to rules of EU law. However, all the participants also concluded that such an effect is there.

Jan Smits, who chaired the conference, concluded that much work is to be done and that this was a successful beginning of a dialogue between Maastricht and Helsinki about Europeanisation of private law. More meetings will, I hope, follow and I will certainly keep everyone posted on our progress.

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M-EPLI Young Property Lawyers Forum – Maastricht 26 and 27 May 2011

On Thursday 26 and Friday 27 M-EPLI hosted the second edition of the Young Property Lawyers forum. It was a most wonderful event with participants from Edinburgh, Stellenbosch, Potchefstroom, Leuven, Oxford and Maastricht. The format of the M-EPLI Young Property Lawyers Forum is that participants, who are all below a full professor level, present a paper and comment on other papers by participating in the discussion that follows. Professors are also very welcome, but do not present papers. On this occasion we had the pleasure of meeting Professor Susan Bright (Oxford), Professor Vincent Sagaert (Leuven) and Professor Sjef van Erp (Maastricht).

The forum was – after a networking lunch – opened by the dean of the law faculty Aalt Willem Heringa and by M-EPLI academic director Jan Smits, after which the first presentations started. The first to start was Sofie Bouly (Leuven) who spoke about the right of superficies and 3D property law. After her Willem Loof (Maastricht) spoke about contractualisation of ownership, more in particular about trust like devices in civil law systems. Bonnie Holligan (Edinburgh) spoke about transfer systems in the DCFR and Scots law. We spend the rest of the day debating and having dinner in one of Maastricht’s finer establishments.

On the Friday, the day was opened by Reghard Brits from Stellenbosch on the impact of the National Credit Act on the enforcement of mortgages. Simon Douglas from Oxford spoke about taxonomy in property law, most specifically the place of claims in English personal property law, as a result of the OBG case of the English Supreme Court. Ernst Marais (Stellenbosch) spoke about acquisitive prescription, followed by Jill Robbie (Edinburgh) speaking about neighbour relations in Scots law. The day and a very nice and successful conference was (controversially) closed by Wian Erlank (Potchefstroom) speaking about virtual property and Bram Akkermans and Eveline Ramaekers (Maastricht) speaking about free movement of goods and property law.

The M-EPLI Young Property Lawyers Forum was one of these rare occasions were all participants were able to contribute to each and every topic in the most constructive manner. With the help of Susan Bright, Sjef van Erp and Vincent Sagaert, discussion was at a constant high level rivalling the best property conferences I’ve been to. We thank all participants once more and hope to be able to publish the papers later this year.

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