|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.15, 12.4.01, p7|
European Commission justice chief Antònio Vitorino has controversially ditched plans for EU-wide consultation over his crucial 'Rome II' regulation governing non-contractual cross-border legal disputes.
MEPs and industry leaders are furious that they will be left without a say on the proposals - so called because they build on the Rome Convention which applies to contractual agreements.
The Portuguese Commissioner is ditching his Green Paper on Rome II despite widespread fears that it will scupper the single market by forcing companies to meet swathes of foreign rules and regulations.
Officials say Vitorino will instead merely propose his draft regulation later this year. Provided he wins the support of his fellow Commissioners, he will only need the approval of EU justice ministers to get it on the Union's statute books.
The European Parliament does not have rights to amend legislation in this area of EU law until reforms agreed last December in Nice enter into force, probably next year.
UK Liberal MEP Diana Wallis, a member of the Parliament's legal affairs committee said: "I am horrified. This is something that should be done out in the open - not behind closed doors. The whole thing is entirely unsatisfactory."
Rome II is intended to determine which country's laws should apply where there is a non-contractual dispute. Industry fears this means that judges will have the power to insist on making foreign companies subject to local laws instead of those where they are based - companies are particularly concerned about falling foul of possible defamation and unfair competition rules as a result.
It is not the first time that the Commission has denied MEPs and industry a voice through consultation.
Two years ago it launched the Brussels Regulation, measures that dictate which courts have jurisdiction (rather than which country's laws should be applied) when consumers sue foreign firms.
The regulation, which was finally adopted late last year, was attacked by industry for stifling e-commerce. It said small firms who had not set out to sell to foreign customers from their websites feared facing legal claims in foreign courts.
Firms were only given the chance to voice their concerns after a massive lobbying assault on the Commission. Officials hastily organised an official hearing in Brussels which was attended by more than 500 executives, most of whom were highly critical of the proposal.
Mike Pullen, a lawyer with UK firm DLA, said the decision to ditch consultation over Rome II goes against the Commission's promise at the Lisbon and Stockholm summits to make its processes more transparent and boost the involvement of industry.
Pullen said: "A certain part of the Commission has an anti-industry bias. They seem to be deliberately attempting to sabotage the single market for cross-border services."
European Commission justice chief António Vitorino has controversially ditched plans for EU-wide consultation over his crucial 'Rome II' regulation governing non-contractual cross-border legal disputes.
|Subject Categories||Justice and Home Affairs, Law|