Workshop on “Optional Instruments of the European Union: A Desirable Method of Regulating Diverse Areas of European Private Law?”



OI in the EU





The rise of a particular kind of European Union legislation known as the ‘optional instrument’ is a novel trend in the context of EU law, and one that until now has not been comprehensively mapped or explored. Optional Instruments (OIs) have been adopted and proposed in different fields of European private law, including company law and intellectual property law (such as the European Company and the Community Trade Mark, respectively), as well as contract law. OIs constitute an alternative method of EU lawmaking to more traditional kinds of legislation, including notably the ‘approximation’ method.

This trend gives rise to a range of intriguing questions, not least among which is the extent to which the OI method is a viable and desirable method of regulating diverse areas of European private law. There are various arguments both supporting and contesting the use of the OI method as an alternative means of lawmaking, but the validity or strength of a number of these arguments can vary depending on the particular policy area or even specific optional instrument in question.

In addition, many arguments made in relation to the OI method are dependent to some degree or another on how ‘attractive’ they prove to be with eligible private actors. For this reason, the question of popularity of EU OIs is also an important one to address in the debate surrounding EU OIs.

The purpose of this workshop is therefore to discuss and reflect on such questions in relation to certain specific areas of European private law, namely intellectual property law and contract law, as well as property law, with a view to arriving at more concrete observations and insights concerning the desirability of the OI method in particular fields of European law.



9:30 – 10:00              Welcome & Coffee

  • Chaired by Jiangqiu Ge & Mark Kawakami
    • PhD Researchers (Maastricht University)

10:00 – 10:20            Introduction

  • Jan Smits
    • Professor of European Private Law (Maastricht University)

10:20 – 10:50           The OI method in the area of Property law

  • Bram Akkermans
    • Associate Professor of European Private Law (Maastricht University)

10:50 – 11:20            The OI method in the area of Intellectual Property law

  • Hector MacQueen
    • Professor of Private Law (University of Edinburgh) 

11:20 – 11:40            Coffee Break

11:40 – 12:10            The OI Method in the Areas of Contract Law

  • Alex Wulf
    • Professor of Business Law (SRH Hochschule Berlin)

12:10 – 12:40            Concluding Remarks

  • William Bull
    • PhD Researcher (Maastricht University)

12:40 – 13:00           Questions & Discussion

13:00 – 15:00           Lunch


Pre-registeration has already concluded, but there are still limited seats available. If you are interested in attending, please email:



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