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COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL (February 2003)

 

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A MORE COHERENT EUROPEAN CONTRACT LAW AN ACTION PLAN

Executive summary

The Commission Communication on European contract law of July 2001 launched a process of consultation and discussion about the way in which problems resulting from divergences between national contract laws in the EU should be dealt with at the European level. The present Action Plan maintains the consultative character of this process and presents the Commission’s conclusions. It confirms the outcome of that process, i.e. that there is no need to abandon the current sector-specific approach. It also summarises the problems identified during the consultation process, which concern the need for uniform application of EC contract law as well as the smooth functioning of the internal market.

This Action Plan suggests a mix of non-regulatory and regulatory measures in order to solve those problems. In addition to appropriate sector-specific interventions, this includes measures :

- to increase the coherence of the EC acquis in the area of contract law,
- to promote the elaboration of EU-wide general contract terms, and
- to examine further whether problems in the European contract law area may require nonsector- specific solutions such as an optional instrument.

In addition to continuing to put forward sector-specific proposals where these are required, the Commission will seek to increase, where necessary and possible, coherence between instruments, which are part of the EC contract law acquis, both in their drafting and in their implementation and application. Proposals will, where appropriate, take into account a common frame of reference, which the Commission intends to elaborate via research and with the help of all interested parties. This common frame of reference should provide for best solutions in terms of common terminology and rules, i.e. the definition of fundamental concepts and abstract terms like “contract” or “damage” and of the rules that apply for example in the case of non-performance of contracts. A review of the current European contract law acquis could remedy identified inconsistencies, increase the quality of drafting, simplify and clarify existing provisions, adapt existing legislation to economic and commercial developments which were not foreseen at the time of adoption and fill gaps in EC legislation which have led to problems in its application. The second objective of the common frame of reference is to form the basis for further reflection on an optional instrument in the
area of European contract law.

In order to promote the elaboration by interested parties of EU-wide general contract terms, the Commission intends to facilitate the exchange of information on existing and planned initiatives both at a European level and within the Member States. Furthermore, the Commission intends to publish guidelines, which will clarify to interested parties the limits which apply.

Finally, the Commission expects comments as to whether some problems may require nonsector- specific solutions, such as an optional instrument in the area of European contract law.

The Commission intends to launch a reflection on the opportuneness, the possible legal form, the contents and the legal basis for possible solutions.