The European Union endorses a harmonisation policy that is deemed to result in legal convergence. Whether in the field of European consumer protection or beyond, the European legislator claims that legal fragmentation and diversity are not conducive to the strengthening of the internal market. Over the course of the last 30 years this has led to a long list of directives of in which varying harmonisation measures are proposed, ranging from minimum harmonisation to ‘targeted full harmonisation’ with the directives on Unfair Commercial Practices and Consumer Rights. Also the proposals of December 2015 on conformity and contractual remedies in distance sales contracts and in contracts for the supply of digital contents aim for maximum harmonisation.
Despite the long history of European harmonisation in the area of private law, it is striking to see that so far very little work is done on the extent to which harmonisation measures actually lead to more convergence among the member states’ national laws. Empirical and quantitative analysis of the extent of convergence is largely missing in the current academic and policy-oriented debate.
This MEPLI-HiiL Round Table conference takes up this challenge. The question central to the conference is how European harmonisation influences the convergence of laws and how current methods of harmonisation must therefore be assessed. To this end, four main approaches to the understanding of legal convergence will be explored: doctrinal, self-regulatory, numerical and empirical.
Participants: Bram Akkermans, Anna Beckers, Caroline Cauffman, Gijs van Dijck, Catalina Goanta, Mark Kawakami, Hans Schulte-Nölke, Mathias Siems, Jan Smits
09:30-10:00 Registration and Coffee
10:00-10:10 Welcome and Introduction: Jan Smits
Panel I Convergence and European private law
Chair: Anna Beckers
10:10-10:30 Bram Akkermans: The doctrine of public policy as an obstacle to convergence in property law
10:50-11:20 Hans Schulte-Nölke: European consumer law
11:40-12:40 Lunch break
Panel II Measuring the law
Chair: Caroline Cauffman
12:40-13:00 Mathias Siems: How to examine legal convergence: traditional and numerical comparative methods (with examples from company law)
13:20-13:40 Gijs van Dijck: The (im)possibility of empirically testing the effect of harmonization on convergence
14:00-14:20 Coffee Break
Panel III Convergence and interdisciplinarity
Chair: Jan Smits
14:20-14:40 Mark Kawakami: The insensitivity of convergence
15:00-15:20 Catalina Goanta: An interdisciplinary approach to measuring legal convergence
15:20-16:00 Concluding remarks