Justice ministers discuss EU sales law


THE INTRODUCTION of a common sales law across the EU and provision for clear guidance on the law concerning succession to property across EU borders were among the issues discussed at a meeting of the Council of Justice Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday.

Viviane Reding, vice-president of the EU Commission with responsibility for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, tabled a series of proposals including a voluntary common sales law to streamline transactions across the EU for consumers. This would allow companies to use a single set of rules for cross-border contracts in all 27 member states.

While opting in to the new sales law would be voluntary, all firms would indicate on their websites if they did so, enabling customers to choose this law for the contract.

Ms Reding is also proposing a new regime for succession law, enabling citizens of one EU state who own property in another to use the succession law of their country of residence. That means, for example, that an Irish citizen living in Ireland and with a holiday home in France who dies will be governed by Irish succession law (French law is much more prescriptive concerning succession rights of children). “We are not talking about peanuts here: there are around 450,000 international successions each year, valued at more than €120 billion,” she said.

The council meeting was also discussing measures intended to give those arrested in connection with a crime the same rights across the EU. “While the right to a defence is widely recognised, the conditions under which suspects can consult a lawyer differ between member states,” she said.

“For example, the person accused of a crime may not be able to see a lawyer during police questioning. In addition, evidence obtained without the presence of a lawyer has a different status from one country to another.”

Ms Reding is proposing the right of access to a lawyer for all citizens in national and cross-border cases, such as those involving a European arrest warrant.