By Steven Stuij, LL.M., Researcher/PhD Candidate in private international law, T.M.C. Asser Instituut
Private international law (PIL), also known as the conflicts of laws, is the field of (international) law that governs private law relations in a cross-border setting. It regulates the issues of applicable law, jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Multilateral unification in this field of law used to be the domain of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, but nowadays it attracts increasing attention from the EU as well. Several Regulations on PIL matters have already been enacted.
Notwithstanding ongoing unification, a wide variety of issues is still unresolved. This was shown during a Meeting for PhD Candidates in PIL that was held at the Asser Institute on the 9th of October. Candidates of both Dutch and Flemish universities attended the meeting and presented a wide variety of interesting (PhD) topics.
Some of the issues were of a thematic nature, like the international aspects of employment in road transport. What is the value of protective rules for workers if so-called ‘letterbox companies’ can engage in a practice called ‘social dumping’? Another example was the liability of societies that classify sea ships, which led to an interesting debate as to the question how the regulation on international jurisdiction (“Brussels I”) should be applied.
Other topics concerned procedural law. The EU aims at a policy of ‘free circulation of judgments’, meaning that judgments of EU member states can be easily recognised in other member states. But what if the recognition of such judgment would violate human rights as enshrined in the ECHR? And what should happen to judgments from ‘outside’ the EU: is a European standard necessary for that?
Interesting is the question how enacted instruments actually operate in practice. One of the participants presented a refreshing approach to this question by gathering empirical data on the operation of EU instruments that introduced uniform civil procedures, like the Small Claims procedure.
Finally, some issues touched upon the very basis of choice-of-law rules. Does the fact that PIL is ‘Europeanised’ mean that a new methodology of PIL – i.e., a new paradigm of determining what law is applicable – is necessary? And if a national court finds that a foreign law is applicable, should the court ascertain the contents of that foreign law of its own motion, or can this matter be left to the parties?
Though the topics seem to focus on EU PIL, the influence of The Hague in PIL is not yet over. In many issues the relations with third states are still very important and the EU will need their cooperation. And the Asser Institute, being located in The Hague, will continue to further inter-university cooperation, for instance by organising this kind of PhD meetings.