Hugh Collins, ‘Why Europe Needs a Civil Code’

Arguments in favour of the creation of a civil code for the European Union are usually framed in terms of the internal market agenda, which seeks to remove real or supposed obstructions to trade, such as the diversity of national laws. Although those arguments for a European civil code are found inadequate and to some extent misconceived, a different reason for the creation of a civil code consisting of principles rather than detailed rules is advanced, based on the idea that Europe needs to construct a transnational civil society that will provide the foundations for greater political solidarity between the peoples of Europe and thereby legitimate more effective transnational institutions of governance.

Does the European Union need a civil code? Like a dark cloud, this question hovers over debates about the future of private law in Europe. Few advocate explicitly the adoption of a civil code in the immediate future, yet many have taken instrumental steps along a road that seems to lead only in that direction. Those steps – whether they be in the task of discovering common core of principles of private law among national legal systems or producing a systematic body of principles such as the Principles of European Contract Law and the Draft Common Frame of Reference of rules and principles for the law of obligations or augmenting the scope of directives to include more and more types of transactions – all have the same direction of travel towards a comprehensive European set of rules governing contracts and related legal obligations. Although these efforts are fascinating intellectual ventures and may prove useful for some purposes, it is important to ask whether the European Union really needs to go on this journey towards a civil code.

Hugh Collins, Why Europe Needs a Civil Code. European Review of Private Law, Volume 21 (2013), Issue 4.

First posted 2013-08-11 08:33:39

Leave a Reply