Alternative Approaches to Legal Convergence: A Round Table


The European Union endorses a harmonisation policy that is deemed to result in legal convergence. Whether in the field of European consumer protection or beyond, the European legislator claims that legal fragmentation and diversity are not conducive to the strengthening of the internal market. Over the course of the last 30 years this has led to a long list of directives of in which varying harmonisation measures are proposed, ranging from minimum harmonisation to ‘targeted full harmonisation’ with the directives on Unfair Commercial Practices and Consumer Rights. Also the proposals of December 2015 on conformity and contractual remedies in distance sales contracts and in contracts for the supply of digital contents aim for maximum harmonisation.

Despite the long history of European harmonisation in the area of private law, it is striking to see that so far very little work is done on the extent to which harmonisation measures actually lead to more convergence among the member states’ national laws. Empirical and quantitative analysis of the extent of convergence is largely missing in the current academic and policy-oriented debate.

This MEPLI-HiiL Round Table conference takes up this challenge. The question central to the conference is how European harmonisation influences the convergence of laws and how current methods of harmonisation must therefore be assessed. To this end, four main approaches to the understanding of legal convergence will be explored: doctrinal, self-regulatory, numerical and empirical.

Participants: Bram Akkermans, Anna Beckers, Caroline Cauffman, Gijs van Dijck, Catalina Goanta, Mark Kawakami, Hans Schulte-Nölke, Mathias Siems, Jan Smits


Preliminary Programme


09:30-10:00 Registration and Coffee

10:00-10:10 Welcome and Introduction: Jan Smits


Panel I Convergence and European private law

Chair: Anna Beckers

10:10-10:30 Bram Akkermans: The doctrine of public policy as an obstacle to convergence in property law

10:30-10:50 Discussion

10:50-11:20 Hans Schulte-Nölke: European consumer law

11:20-11:40 Discussion


11:40-12:40 Lunch break


Panel II Measuring the law

Chair: Caroline Cauffman

12:40-13:00 Mathias Siems: How to examine legal convergence: traditional and numerical comparative methods (with examples from company law)

13:00-13:20 Discussion

13:20-13:40 Gijs van Dijck: The (im)possibility of empirically testing the effect of harmonization on convergence

13:40-14:00 Discussion


14:00-14:20 Coffee Break


Panel III Convergence and interdisciplinarity

Chair: Jan Smits

14:20-14:40 Mark Kawakami: The insensitivity of convergence

14:40-15:00 Discussion

15:00-15:20 Catalina Goanta: An interdisciplinary approach to measuring legal convergence

15:20-16:00 Concluding remarks


Informal drinks



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