Workshops on the 2003 Action Plan
Workshops on the European Contract Law Action Plan, 16 and 23 June 2003
The first workshop of 16 June 2003 provided a forum for EU Countries , Acceding Countries and stakeholders to express their views on the Action Plan, according to the Commission's commitment to an "open, wide-ranging and detailed debate".
Subject of discussions
The main aim was to receive input on the research priorities for the Common Frame of Reference (CFR). Particular emphasis was placed on the question of which areas would require further research to ensure that the preparation of the CFR takes into account the practical needs of economic operators.
Discussions mainly focused on Measure I, 'To increase the coherence of the European community (EC) acquis in the area of contract law', while general comments were also made on Measure III: 'To examine non sector-specific measures such as an optional instrument'.
Participants were also asked for suggestions on how to involve Member States, the European Parliament (EP) and stakeholders during the preparation of the CFR by Researchers and its elaboration by the Commission.
The importance of the involvement of EU institutions and stakeholders was unambiguously confirmed during the workshop. There seemed to be a consensus that this involvement has to take place in an efficient and systematic manner:
- The use of a-hoc consultations or questionnaires as a means of engaging stakeholders was criticised.
- A distinction has begun to emerge between involvement at the political level and involvement at the expert level.
- At the technical level it was suggested that access to relevant drafts via a web-site and regular discussion with practitioners would be practicable and would further facilitate stakeholder involvement.
- Concerning the sources of the research work, there was a large consensus that existing research should be used as far as possible and that international agreements such as the Convention on the International Sale of Goods should be taken into account.
In general, the existing acquis and national legal orders should form the basis of research on the CFR. In particular, stakeholders from the Common Law EU countries made the point that the legal traditions of the Common law should not be neglected.
Concerning the possible structure of the CFR, it was envisaged to have some general principles, common definitions and rules.
Regarding the CFR content, interested parties mentioned the following points: rules on conclusion of contracts, circumstances under which declarations of intent are held to be valid, rules on form requirements, duties to inform and sanctions for failure to inform, rights of withdrawal, prescription periods, non-performance and remedies, the rules governing the authority of agents, rules governing liability and extent of liability and the rules governing the method by which standard contract terms are accepted by the parties.
In particular, attention was drawn to the importance of mandatory provisions. Among the specific contract types , the contracts of sale and of services were mentioned. The need for the inclusion of rules on insurance contracts was also put forward.
Finally, the rules on credit securities on movable goods and clauses relating to the retention of title were also mentioned.
The second workshop 23 of June 2003 consisted of an information session for Researchers wishing to conduct research under the 6th Framework Programme.
The aim was for DG Research to provide Researchers with practical information on the application procedure for funding and to inform them about the 16 June first workshop's results.
Participants had the opportunity to ask questions on the Action Plan. They presented their research projects. A representative of DG Research introduced the 6th Framework Programme and answered questions on practical details.
The Commission intends to hold a third workshop on the Action Plan, which is scheduled to take place in autumn 2003. This workshop will aim to focus more on Measure II: 'To promote the elaboration of EU-wide general contract terms'.