Civil procedure in and outside the EU – Northwestern European perspectives

The project investigates how the law of the European Union and legal developments within the EU influences national civil procedure in countries in and outside the EU. European civil procedure impacts national civil procedure in at least four different ways: through regulation of fundamental procedural rights, through secondary law of a procedural character, through “invisible” measures such as case law of the European Court of Justice, and secondary law regulating procedural law and through soft law measures. All four types of European influences have a direct or indirect - sometimes even foundational - impact on national civil procedure law.

The impact extends even to countries outside the EU, such as Norway. Through the Agreement on the European Economic Area, Norway is directly subject to three of the four forms of influence. As justice matters are not included in the EEA Agreement, secondary law with a procedural content is not binding for Norway. However, Norway has implemented some of the legislation voluntarily and has entered into the Lugano Convention on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of civil and commercial matters. Despite EU membership, Denmark, Ireland and the UK have not participated fully in the Justice Area.

As a result of Brexit, the impact of EU law on English civil procedure will lessen. Simultaneously, EU needs to find ways to coordinate and cooperate in justice matters with non-Member States. Up until now, the Lugano Convention has served as a way of coordination and cooperation, as have treaties under the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

The project seeks primarily to discuss the impact of selected aspects of EU law on national civil procedure in Northwestern European countries, Germany, the Netherlands, UK, Finland, Sweden and Norway, some of which are EU Member States. It raises the question how and why the national legal systems in these countries respond differently to EU civil procedure law. Particular focus will be given to the question of the role of EU-membership and how cooperation and coordination in justice matter can be achieved regardless of membership.

By choosing northwestern Europe, attention can be directed to countries with similar economic, societal and cultural structures. Apart from the English legal system, the other systems draw on German and Austrian civil procedure thinking. This enables us also to discuss the element on the relevance of EU membership within jurisdictions based on similar legal structures.

The project does not seek to provide a comprehensive review of the impact of EU law on the chosen national legal systems. Rather, it has a topical approach. We will in particular look at the following topics

  • Soft law reform of European civil procedure – the ELI/UNIDROIT project and national civil procedure (UK, German and Norwegian perspectives)
  • Reform through secondary law: Harmonization and/or fragmentation of national civil procedure (EU, Finnish, Swedish and German perspectives)
  • The “invisible” touch of European law in consumer cases (German, Dutch and Nordic perspectives)
  • Managing being inside and outside of EU through international treaties – Brussels I, Brussels II, the Lugano Convention and the Hague Convention (EU and Norwegian perspective)

A workshop was held in Tromsø August 31-September 2, 2017. The workshop was open for invited researchers.