European Private Law (ius commune)


Private law is no longer a product of national law only: also the EU is building a European private legal order. The European legislator has indeed in the past two decades regularly intervened and this has led to the Europeanization of many aspects of private law. It is important that private lawyers are able to identify those areas of the law that are affected by European private law and that they have an understanding of the consequences on national private law of the Europeanization process. Of course, throughout various courses in law school students learn about the role of the European legislator in e.g. family law, procedural law, contract law, etc. However, an overview is lacking. This course aims to instill a "European reflex" in law students.

Firstly, they should be made aware of the areas of the law that are affected by the European level and they should learn to transcend national legal thinking.

Secondly, students should gain insight into the Europeanization process and be challenged to reflect critically on the feasibility, desirability and direction of a multi-level system of European private law.


This course consists of two parts.

One part of the course offers a "meta-perspective" on European private law. This part will focus on the questions of whether and why we need (or do not need) a (harmonized) European private law, and on what is the way forward for European private law. Various arguments of an economic, cultural, and functionalist nature will be weighed when exploring the debate on diversity as opposed to harmonization of European private law. Also, different approaches will be examined, as well as the instruments that best serve their respective purposes (e.g. positive versus negative integration, minimum versus maximum harmonization, optional instruments). The question of the optimal division of competences will also be touched upon.

The second part of the course is dedicated to the study of a selection of key areas of private law that are regulated on the EU level. The “capita selecta” will relate to fields of the law in which European private law has acquired a strong position (e.g. Private International Law, Consumer law, Contract law), as well as to areas of European private law that still have not attained their full development (e.g. Tort law, Property law, Family law, Procedural law). The initiatives of the European legislator will be dealt with, as well as the efforts of the European Court of Justice. Attention will also be given to the various codification / harmonization efforts that (should) reflect the current stance of European private law in a given area, and that are the work of a number of authoritative expert groups.

Key words: 
Private law; Europeanization; harmonization, unification, and diversity; multi-level legal systems; codification