Vol. 6.2, July 2002


European Private Law and Legal Globalisation

In several editorials, I discussed aspects of the tendency which can be seen in the (future) member states of the European Union towards de-nationalisation and 'Europeanisation' of private law as a result of regional integration. This tendency towards regional legal integration is, certainly, not typically European. Furthermore, it should be seen in the light of legal integration which results from globalisation: the integration of markets worldwide. It will, therefore, come as no surprise that European private law not only arises from the convergence of national private law (which, at least in part, can be seen as a resurrection of the old 'ius commune'), but is also influenced by legal instruments which result from the work of UNIDROIT (http://www.unidroit.org) and UNCITRAL (http://www.uncitral.org). This interplay between European regional integration and global integration was recently noted by Pim Haak, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, and Jan-Watse Fokkens, Deputy Procurator General at the Supreme Court, in a paper entitled 'Accommodating Legal Diversity: Brief Reflections', which they presented at the Conference of Presidents of the Supreme Courts and Attorneys General of Member States of the EU, held in Dublin, from 29 to 31 May 2002. The lecture can be found at the official website of the Dutch judiciary: http://www.rechtspraak.nl (Home>zoeken>op de hele site>'legal diversity'). Reference can also be made to the writings of Francis Snyder, e.g. his working paper 'Globalisation and Europeanisation as Friends and Rivals: European Union Law in Global Economic Networks', EUI Working Paper LAW 99/08, Badia Fiesolana, San Domenico (FI) , 1999, to be found at: http://www.iue.it/LAW/WP-Texts/law99_8.pdf

Several very interesting and thought-provoking studies of a more general nature regarding what globalisation is and what impact it has on our daily lives have appeared. A widely known book is The Lexus and the Olive Tree, written by Thomas L. Friedman (website: http://www.lexusandtheolivetree.com/). In order to gain a more in-depth understanding about globalisation and its effects, several universities have established research institutes which study this phenomenon from a multidisciplinary perspective. The universities of Harvard (Center for International Development at Harvard University, http://www.cid.harvard.edu/), Tilburg (Institute for Globalization and Sustainable Development, http://www.uvt.nl/globus) and Warwick (Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/csgr/) can be mentioned here.

What globalisation means for private law has, so far, not been studied as extensively as what it means for public international law (free trade agreements), labour law and environmental law. The same is true for the influence of globalisation on European private law. Also, this influence is not a one-way street: it could very well be that harmonisation or unification of the law within Europe might set a standard for unification of the law worldwide, much in the same way as American law influences legal developments worldwide. I need only refer to the famous Article 9 UCC security interest, which proves to be a very convincing exemplary model in the area of personal property security interests. For more information regarding Article 9, see the websites of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws ( http://www.nccusl.org/nccusl/default.asp and http://www.law.upenn.edu/bll/ulc/ulc.htm).

It is, therefore, of extreme importance that law faculties not only teach their national legal systems, but also legal aspects of regional and global integration, and not just as an 'extra', but as the core part of their curriculum. In the Netherlands, this is done by the universities of Maastricht (European Law School Programme, established in 1996 (http://www.unimaas.nl, >English>Faculties>Law>Education>Studies>European Law School) and Groningen (Hanse Law School, http://hls.rechten.rug.nl/index.asp, which will start in September of this year), and in Germany by the Buccerius Law School (http://www.law-school.de/). In the United States, the Hauser Global Law School Program of the New York University School of Law should be mentioned (see http://www.law.nyu.edu/programs/globallawschool/). I am convinced that this approach towards the academic study of law will prove to be the best way for students to become good legal practitioners. More and more developments in social and economic life may make the impression that they are still 'national', whereas in fact they result from regional or global developments. The same applies to law. This awareness that legal thinking is de-nationalising and is becoming more regional and more global should be at the heart of discussions about changes in the legal curriculum at institutions of legal teaching and scholarship. The distinction between 'national' and 'international' lawyers is becoming less and less sharp. In Europe no lawyer can ignore the growing influence of European private law. In the near future, the same will be true regarding the influence of legal globalisation, however distant this future may still seem to a large majority of legal practitioners.

Sjef van Erp,

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