Brussels, 18 Feb 2003
The European Commission is offering funding under the Sixth Framework Programme for studies to elaborate a 'common frame of reference' for EU contract law, which underpins all internal market transactions within the EU. The research will contribute to the Commission's proposed creation of a more coherent body of EU contract law so as to facilitate more cross-border shopping and reduce red tape for business.
Responding to inconsistencies in Member States' contract laws, studies will be undertaken on the development of common rules and terminology for the law. This could lead to the development of common definitions of concepts such as 'contract' or 'damage', and the agreement of rules that apply in the case of non-performance of contracts.
Differences on these issues inhibit cross-border transactions, according to the Commission, as companies selling goods in another Member State can find their guarantee of payment disappearing as soon as their goods cross a border. Currently, there is no EU level definition of what sort of agreement constitutes a valid contract, despite the fact that the term 'contract' appears in a number of EU directives.
EU Enterprise Commissioner, Erkki Liikanen, said that the proposals are aimed at removing red tape and 'reducing legal costs for SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises] that are involved in or intend to start up cross-border activities.'
Apart from their initiation of studies on contract law, the Commission is also considering the feasibility of creating an optional body of European level contract law. This would exist in parallel to, rather than instead of, national contract laws.
The studies on EU contract law provided for in this Commission plan were referred to in a call for proposals, issued on 17 December 2002, under the Sixth Framework Programme's 'Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society' priority thematic area.
The Commission requires research that can be applied as a common frame of reference when the existing acquis are reviewed and new acquis proposed. The studies should also serve as a basis for further proposals on an optional new Community instrument in the area of contract law.
Researchers will be expected to seek the views of business and consumer organisations as well as other stakeholders so as to ensure that their work meets the practical needs of all interested parties.
Funding for this research will be awarded through the 'integrated projects' and 'networks of excellence' instruments of the Sixth Framework Programme.
For further information, please consult the following web address: