Thursday, 2 June 2011

The public, the private and the European

My father used to like to refer to the famous ships passing each other by in the night when speaking about the miscommunications he sometimes encountered during his career as a lawyer. I believe it is part of the work of both practitioners and academics to try and understand the different approaches different people may have to legal problems and overcome them together. In the field of European law, one of the most interesting challenges seems to be to bridge the public/private divide that characterises many conceptual and practical approaches to regulation, law-making and adjudication. So far, there were not many fora that allowed for a comprehensive debate on the questions raised in this context.
Times seem to be changing with the inauguration of the European Law Institute, which was officially presented at a conference in Paris yesterday, 1st June 2011. Although it remains to be seen what will be the precise role of the ELI in the further development of European law, its programme provides much room for a further cooperation of public and private lawyers; or perhaps it would be better to speak of European lawyers here. I quote from ELI's manifesto:

Among ELI’s core tasks are:
  • to evaluate and stimulate the development of EU law, legal policy, and practice, and in particular make proposals for the further development of the acquis and for the enhancement of EU law implementation by the Member States;
  • to identify and analyse legal developments in areas within the competence of Member States which are relevant at the EU level;
  • to study EU approaches regarding international law and enhance the role EU law could play globally, for instance in drafting international instruments or model rules;
  • to conduct and facilitate pan-European research, in particular to draft, evaluate or improve principles and rules which are common to the European legal systems; and
  • to provide a forum, for discussion and cooperation, of jurists irrespective of their vocation or occupation, inter alia academics, judges, lawyers and other legal professionals, who take an active interest in European legal development and together represent a broad range of legal traditions.'
ELI welcomes the participation of both practitioners and scholars from all field of European law and invites applications for becoming a Fellow of the institute. More information can be found on the website.
Finally, as regards subjects for first projects, many speakers at the conference mentioned the application of fundamental rights to relationships between private parties, which in my (undoubtedly biased) opinion would be a field to which researchers and practitioners from many different backgrounds (or to stay within the metaphor, on different ships, preferably not just passing in the night) could greatly contribute.

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