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Last update: 04-11-2009
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General Information - Community law

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Community law affects your daily life more and more.

In the internal market, trade between Member States has intensified and people are moving more and more to settle, work, marry, do business or simply spend their holidays in other Member States.

Situations involving people who live in different States have proliferated, and so have the possibilities for disputes. The establishment of a European justice area is now acutely necessary.

The Amsterdam Treaty of 1996 has since 1999 enabled the establishment of a link between judicial cooperation in civil matters and free movement of persons. The possibility of relying on Community legislation is not an insignificant matter for the citizen of Europe , who is able to plead a Community Regulation in support of his action in the courts.

The mutual recognition of judgments is the cornerstone of the whole system. A mutual recognition programme has been adopted by the Council and the Commission to determine the main measures that need taking here.

In this context, a number of instruments have already been adopted, including:


The Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters


The Council Regulation 1393/2007 of 13 November 2007 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (service of documents).


This Regulation repeals Council Regulation 1348/2000 of 29 May 2000.


The Council Regulation 864/2007 of 11 July 2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (Rome II).


The Council Regulation 861/2007 of 11 July 2007 establishing a European Small Claims Procedure.


The Council Regulation 1896/2006 of 12 December 2006 creating a European order for payment procedure.


The Council Directive 2004/80/EC of 29 April 2004 relating to compensation to crime victims aims at ensuring that all EU citizens and all legal residents in the EU can receive adequate compensation for the losses they have suffered in case they fall victim to a crime within the EU.

Council Decision 2006/337 of 19 April 2006 establishes the standard forms for the transmission of applications and decisions according to the Directive.


The Council Regulation 805/2004 creating a European enforcement order for uncontested claims is to make judgments on uncontested claims given in a Member State enforceable throughout the Community with no need for intermediate measures in the Member State where enforcement is to be sought.


The annexes of this Regulation have been replaced by Commission Regulation 1869/2005 of 16 November 2005.


Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000. This text, applies as from 1st March 2005. (see user guide PDF 652 KB (PDF 652 KB))

For optimum application of this instrument information concerning the courts and redress procedures communicated by the Member States has been published according to article 68 of the regulation.

The Regulation has been amended by Council Regulation 2116/2004 of 2 December 2004 as regards the treaties with the Holy See.

This Regulation No 2201/2003 replaces the Council Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 of 29 May 2000, sometimes known as the Brussels II Regulation which entered into force in March 2001, which annexes (annexe I in 2002 and annexes I to IV in 2004) have been modified.


Council Directive 2003/8/EC of 27 January 2003 to improve access to justice in cross-border disputes by establishing minimum common rules relating to legal aid for such disputes


Commission Decisions 2005/630/EC of 26 August 2005 and 2004/844/EC of 9 November 2004 establish the forms for legal aid applications.


Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, sometimes known as the Brussels I Regulation provides the answers to two vital questions that arise in the event of a dispute between two people living in different States: which courts have jurisdiction, and what rules apply to decide whether a judgment given in a Member State will be recognised. A number of modifications have been made to this Regulation which came into force on 1 st. March 2002 and replaces the Brussels Convention of 1968.

One corrigendum has been published on 24.11.2001 concerning conventions to which the United Kingdom is a Party. A modification of two of its annexes (annexes I and II) took place in 2002. A further modification of annexes I to IV was made in November 2004 following the enlargement of the EU to 25 Member States. The Council and the Commission have made a declaration PDF File (PDF 70 KB) on Articles 15 and 73.

Annexes I to IV have been modified again by Council Regulation 1937/2004 of 9 November 2004 and by Council Regulation 2245/2004 of 27 December 2004.


Following the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, article 69 and the annexes of the Regulation have been adapted by Council Regulation 1791/2006.


Council Regulation (EC) No 1346/2000 of 29 May 2000 on insolvency proceedings lays down Community rules on recognition and enforcement of insolvency decisions and the determination of the applicable law.

The lists of insolvency proceedings, winding-up proceedings and liquidators in annexes A, B and C have been amended in April 2005 by Council Regulation 603/2005, in April 2006 by Council Regulation 694/2006 and in June 2007 by Council Regulation 681/2007.

Following the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, article 44(1) and the annexes of the Regulation have been adapted by Council Regulation 1791/2006.


Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001 of 28 May 2001 on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters improves, simplifies and expedites cooperation between courts as regards evidence.


Council Decision 2001/470/EC of 28 May 2001 establishing a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters.

-Commission proposals currently under discussion in the other Union institutions:

Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Decision 2001/470/EC establishing a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters

Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 as regards jurisdiction and introducing rules concerning applicable law in matrimonial matters (impact assessment - annex)

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I)

Proposal for a Council Regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations (impact assessment)


Green Papers, which are preparatory documents before a proposal is made:

Green Paper on improving the efficiency of the enforcement of judgments in the European Union: the attachment of bank accounts (annex)
Green Paper on conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes, including the question of jurisdiction and mutual recognition (annex)
Green Paper on applicable law and jurisdiction in divorce matters (annex)
Green Paper - Succession and wills
Green Paper - Maintenance obligations
Green Paper on the conversion of the Rome Convention of 1980 on the law applicable to contractual obligations into a Community instrument and its modernisation.


A little background.

This plan for a European law-enforcement area became a Union objective with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, but a variety of initiatives for closer and more effective judicial cooperation in civil matters between Member States had already existed, foremost among them the Brussels Convention of 1968 on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters and the Rome Convention of 1980 on the law applicable to contractual obligations.
Other initiatives had also emerged in international organisations, including:In 1999, the Amsterdam Treaty brought judicial cooperation in civil matters into the Community framework. This made it possible both to use the Community method here and to adopt instruments in the form of Community legislation (regulations, directives and decisions).
The United Kingdom and Ireland have reserved the right to decide case by case whether they will participate in a given instrument. In principle, Denmark does not participate in this area of Community action. However, two parallel agreements between the European Community and the Kingdom of Denmark have been signed in 2005; one on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters, and the other one on the service of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil and commercial matters. The agreements entered into force on 1st July 2007.

To lay the practical basis for action on the Maastricht and Amsterdam objectives, the European Council held a special meeting at Tampere in Finland in October 1999. It declared that “in a genuine European area of justice individuals and businesses should not be prevented or discouraged from exercising their rights by the incompatibility or complexity of legal and administrative systems in the Member States”.

This confirmed their attachment to establishing a genuine area of justice “where people can approach courts and authorities in any Member State as easily as in their own”.

At the European Council on 4 and 5 November 2004, the Head of States and of governments adopted the Hague Programme in order to strengthen justice. They noted that “a number of measures have already been carried out”, but that “further efforts should be made to facilitate access to justice and judicial cooperation as well as the full employment of mutual recognition”. The Hague Programme states that “continued implementation of the programme of measures on mutual recognition 1 must therefore be a main priority in the coming years to ensure its completion by 2011”.

The action taken by the European Commission follows on from the conclusions of the European Council in this respect.

Clicking on the European flag will take you to information on Community law and Commissions proposals on each topic.


Last update: 04-11-2009

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