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Joint network on european private law

Final Report Summary - COPECL (Joint Network on European Private Law)

The six-volume 'Draft Common Frame of Reference (DCFR) for European Private Law' which was elaborated together with a corona of evaluative works on, e.g. terminology, underlying principles and economic aspects is the core objective achieved by the COPECL Network of Excellence (NoE). Pooling input from more than 150 comparative lawyers from all jurisdictions of the European Union (EU), the DCFR and its evaluative corona aimed to establish a common point of reference and a basis of understanding for lawyers in the EU.

In particular, the DCFR formed a toolbox for the EU legislator. It was presented in the form of principles (COPECL), and included definitions and model rules. These principles were supplemented by comments and comparative information. The work was based on national laws, the existing EU Acquis and relevant international instruments.

The results of the COPECL network, in particular the DCFR, have attracted extraordinary attention from the academic and the policy-making community. Dozens of conferences and hundreds of articles in all leading law journals have dealt with the subject. The European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission (EC) have all been considering how the DCFR can best be adapted and utilised to improve coherence in contract law in the EU. The EC had appointed a high-ranking, 18-member expert group to examine the possibility of creating an 'optional European contract law' on the basis of the DCFR. The group, which mainly consists of members of the COPECL Network, is now carrying forward the work on the DCFR. The EC is hoping that harmonised contract solutions will help tackle what it calls 'bottlenecks' in the single market.

In order to ensure the sustainability of the Europe-wide debate initiated by the COPECL network, the participating researchers were seeking to found, together with many other research institutions, a European Law Institute as a common platform for the development of European law. To this end, an association for a European Law Institute was founded in March 2010 which united researchers from more than 100 leading research institutions in Europe and contributed to further boost the creation and improved functioning of a European Research Area (ERA) in the field of law and legal science.

In more details, the COPECL NoE had the following four objectives:
1. elaboration of a DCFR for European contract law;
2. overcoming research fragmentation in the European research area;
3. guidance to legislators, legal practitioners and academics;
4. dissemination of knowledge and durable research integration.

Of all these four objectives, the first one had overarching character, as the core task of the project was to elaborate a draft and create building material for the 'common frame of reference' for European contract law as described both in the EC's action plan and the many subsequent communications. The European Parliament stated in its Resolution of 23 March 2006 that the project of a common frame of reference is 'by far the most important initiative underway in the field of civil law'.

During the first project years the COPECL network prepared drafts for core parts of the DCFR. At the same time, in parallel to the research and drafting work, practitioners and stakeholders were involved in order to ensure that the drafts met their needs. The input received from their side was incorporated into the COPECL drafts. The drafts were also evaluated by specific research groups with regard to their philosophical underpinnings and their economic impact.

A first consolidated version of the DCFR was delivered to the EC in December 2007. It was then possible for a large amount of input, received from all sides, to be incorporated into the DCFR. During the last project year, in December 2008, the COPECL network delivered the final version of the DCFR to the EC. Core parts of the DCFR have also been published online and in print, in an outline edition, in March 2009 and a full version in October 2009.