Report from M-EPLI talk with Prof. Dr. Thomas Coendet- “Comparative Law as a Means of Legal Reasoning?”

By Dr. William Bull and Doris Beganovic


On the 13th of September 2017, M-EPLI had the honour of welcoming Prof. Dr. Thomas Coendet, the respected Swiss lawyer and current professor at KoGuan Law School in Shanghai, to give a talk on the topic of “Comparative Law as a Means of Legal Reasoning?”.

Firstly, some insight into comparative law should be given. Comparative law is the act of comparing the law of one country to the law of another, by and large first being the law of a foreign country and second being the law of one’s own country. The essence of comparison is looking at one legal data in both systems and then focusing on similarities and differences between them.  In most of the countries in Europe, legal decisions are based on legal reasoning that stems from the domestic jurisdiction. Judges do not usually look to foreign jurisdictions to guide their decisions or to create their arguments by engaging in comparison between the foreign law and their own.

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Make the Code Civil great again: M-EPLI Talk with Dr. Matthias Martin – “R.I.P. Cause (1804-2016): A Paradigmatic Shift in the French Law of Obligations”

By William Bull and Tara Benjamin (European Law School Bachelor student)


On 9th November 2016, M-EPLI had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Matthias Martin from the Université de Bretagne Sud, who delivered a talk on the recent reforms of the French civil code, and in particular, the ‘death’ of cause in French contract law.

With its proud historical origins rooted in the era of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Code Civil stands apart from other civil law systems insofar as the law of obligations it embodies has not been the object of any fundamental reforms in the last 200 years. For this reason, the recent reform of the Code Civil (Ordinance 2016-131, February 10 2016) is widely viewed not only as a substantive change but also a symbolic shift in French private law. Although, according to Dr. Martin, the reform does not constitute a full-blown revolution; rather it should be understood as ‘just a revolt.’

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



OI in the EU




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William A. Bull’s PhD Defense on “Optional Instruments of the EU”

WAB PhD Defense Invitation


  • Maastricht University – Minederbroedersberg (Aula)
  • 12 May 2016 at 14:00

Summary of the Thesis:

This 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. This study examines and discusses existing and proposed EU Optional Instruments (OIs) in different fields of European law, including company law, intellectual property law and procedural law (such as the European Company, the Community Trade Mark and the European Small Claims Procedure, respectively), as well as contract law. The study identifies the core elements that define Optional Instruments of the EU and distinguish them from other kinds of EU legislation, especially so-called approximating measures. It provides a detailed overview of a total of twelve OIs in the aforementioned policy areas, charting their development, characteristics and (where appropriate) usage in practice. It investigates the case for and against the use of optional instruments as an alternative means of EU law-making, by analyzing and evaluating the principal arguments in the debate surrounding the use of this legislative method. Finally, it offers an explanation of the varied degree of ‘success’ of EU OIs already in existence, by identifying possible factors that play a role in this respect and testing the significance of these factors with reference to available empirical data. In doing so, the author provides a framework for future research into this developing phenomenon, as well as guidance for the elaboration of future Optional Instruments of the European Union.

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Conference on Nudging in Europe: What can EU Law learn from Behavioural Sciences? Liège 12 and 13 December 2013

Piano stairway

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a two-day conference in Liège entitled  ‘Nudging in Europe’, together with fellow M-EPLI fellows Catalina Goanta and Mark Kawakami as well as M-EPLI Director Jan Smits, who was chairing both the first and the last of the constituent panels. The conference was organised by Alberto Alemanno and Anne-Lise Sibony, Professors of EU Law at HEC Paris and Liège University respectively, and attended by both academics and public officials from various institutions, including the European Commission and EU Ombudsman Office.

For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘nudging’ is a concept of behavioural science according to which the decision-making of individuals can be directed through ‘indirect interventions’ (just) as well as more direct legislative and enforcement measures. In other words, as Richard Thaler (the Professor usually credited with developing nudge theory) puts it, a nudge “is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives” (Nudge, 2008). An oft-cited example of such an intervention (reference to which was made during the conference) is that of the piano stairway installed in a Stockholm subway station in order to encourage commuters to take the stairs rather than the escalator (and thereby to exercise more).

The potential importance of nudging was stressed in the introduction to the conference as part of the explanation of its overall aim, which was to debate the uses of and issues raised by behavioural insights for the law, and specifically for law-making within the European Union. Hence the conference was of an interdisciplinary nature, providing a platform to discuss how behavioural sciences may be integrated both into EU law-making in general and certain sub-fields of EU law in particular. After the introduction by the conference organisers, the first day began with a panel focusing on normative and legal issues raised by the incorporation of behavioural teachings into the law, which was chaired by Jan Smits, followed by a second panel exploring the question of debiasing through EU law. The day concluded with the start of the sector-specific panel of the conference, which considered the implications arising from the previous panels for various EU policy areas, beginning with that of data protection, including online privacy and web-track technologies. The discussion of the roles behavioural sciences play in different fields of EU law then continued on the second day, first with consumer protection law (including consumer contracts and unfair commercial practices), followed by financial and energy law, and finally competition law.  The conference concluded with a fourth and final panel dedicated to a critical reflection on the difficulties and challenges implicit in ‘behavioural informed regulation’. This was again chaired by M-EPLI Director Professor Smits, who also acted as discussant for Peter Cserne’s paper regarding the limits to EU law’s learning from behavioural sciences.

In terms of the results of the conference, as Professor Alemanno pointed in his summing up, the main outcome was that of raising awareness of how nudging already influences the behaviour of individuals like consumers (for example in the context of fast food), and the potential influence it could have in future in other areas.


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Paritas creditorum or easy credit?: A report from MEPLI Talk with Anna Berlee and Willem Loof – “Regulating Security on (Future) Assets”

By William Bull & Pavel Tehlar

On 16th October 2013 the regular M-EPLI Talk took place, and on this occasion M-EPLI fellows Anna Berlee and Willem Loof spoke about their research for the upcoming M-EPLI Book. Anna and Willem’s contribution addresses the question of whether it is better for the EU or the national legal systems to legislate specifically in the area of property security law. Concretely, their focus is on the rules governing the property security right of pledge (or what the English would call the charge) in three different jurisdictions, namely England and Wales, Belgium and the Netherlands.

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