Monday, 3 October 2011

Reflections on Europe and private law relationships

Last Wednesday and Thursday, 28 and 29 September, three of the authors of this blog attended (and one gave a presentation at) the highly interesting conference 'The involvement of EU law in private law relationships', organised by Dorota Leczykiewicz and Steve Weatherill (Institute of European and Comparative Law, Oxford).

The conference brought together speakers from many different backgrounds, including (European) private law, constitutional law, consumer law and employment law (see programme). This resulted in a fruitful exchange of views on the extent to which EU law does and should affect relationships between private parties, addressing doctrinal debates (e.g. how to shape the possible horizontal effects of free movement, how to apply principles of EU law to private law relationships, how to reconcile EU competition law with contract law, and how to apply the principle of non-discrimination to employment relations) as well as more legal-theoretical and legal-political questions (e.g. concerning the 'apodictic principles' of civil law emerging in the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the political stakes of black lists in consumer law). Consumer issues that were discussed included unfair contract terms, the impact of the principle of effectiveness on private law relationships, and the concept of the 'average consumer' in domestic litigation (on which Vanessa's presentation focused).

Main points of reflection resulting from the con
ference were: the idea of private autonomy in EU private law, the blurring distinction between public and private law (in combination with the distinction of public and private spheres), the place of private law in Europe's constitutional order and the interaction between EU law and domestic systems of (private) law. While not all of these topics may be uncharted territory for those interested in the field of European private law (one speaker remarked that everyone at the conference seemed to be an expert on the Courage v Crehan case), the speakers at the conference shed new light on them by comparing their different views (e.g. reading Courage from a principles-oriented or rather a competition law perspective).

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