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How it all started ...

The ELIA and EUI initiatives

In Europe the idea of founding a European Law Institute had been in discussion for more than a decade. Two main initiatives were launched:

In October 2008, a group of scholars from leading European law schools and research institutes convened in Brussels to discuss the project. Follow-up meetings took place in Prague, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Frankfurt. In March 2010, the Association for a European Law Institute (ELIA) was founded, which served to initiate and coordinate a Europe-wide debate. By 2011, the ELIA had around 250 members, academics from more than 100 European law faculties as well as judges, many of them from Member States' supreme courts, and legal professionals.

An independent initiative towards the foundation of a European Law Institute was taken by the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. Four colleagues from the EUI launched a conference in April 2010, inviting many leading figures from European institutions and networks to discuss the idea (RSCAS Policy Paper 2010/03: A European Law Institute? Towards Innovation in European Legal Integration). Among the speakers was Viviane Reding, then newly appointed Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, who had been a strong advocate for a European Law Institute ever since she took office.

The Hamburg Memorandum

Even though—or rather because—there was a great deal of overlap between the ELIA and the EUI initiatives, they came to be seen as possible competitors, which caused concern among members of the academic community. Thus, upon the kind invitation of Reinhard Zimmermann, a meeting was held on the premises of the Hamburg Max Planck Institute on 22 and 23 June 2010 in order to find out whether the two initiatives could be brought together and whether a common roadmap could be developed for the establishment of a European Law Institute, if possible in partnership with Trans Europe Experts (TEE). The discussions held in Hamburg and the consensus reached are outlined in the minutes of that meeting (“Hamburg Memorandum”).

... towards the European Law Institute

The Vienna Memorandum

In accordance with the Hamburg Memorandum, a joint project group had been formed by the ELIA and EUI initiatives and further networks and stakeholder organizations. A first meeting of this joint project group and of observers from the European Commission was held in Vienna on 23 and 24 November 2010. The meeting was chaired jointly by the President of the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU, Dr Irmgard Griss, and by Professor Reinhard Zimmermann, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law. The results are summarized in the Vienna Memorandum.

Three working groups were set up:

  • Working Group I (coordinated by Fabrizio Cafaggi, Christiane Wendehorst and Sabino Cassese) would prepare a draft manifesto and a draft statute; and it would investigate, and present a proposal, concerning the question of the place of incorporation of the ELI.
  • Working Group II (coordinated by Sjef van Erp, Hans Micklitz and Sir Francis Jacobs) would suggest which additional members to adopt for the Founding Committee; and it would prepare criteria for a decision on the seat of the secretariat of the ELI.
  • Working Group III (coordinated by Miguel Poiares Maduro, Hans Schulte-Nölke and Bénédicte Fauvarque-Cosson) would look into the question which academic projects should be pursued by the ELI; and it would prepare the Founding Congress of the ELI.

Meeting of the ELI Founding Committee in Athens

On 15 and 16 April 2011, the ELI Founding Committee convened in Athens upon the kind invitation of Professor Spyridon Flogaitis, President of EPLO, in order to debate the results submitted by the three Working Groups that had been established on the basis of the Vienna Memorandum. The discussions in Athens were again moderated by Professor Reinhard Zimmermann and Justice Dr Griss. Following the proposal made by Working Group I it was decided to found the ELI as an Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif (AISBL) under Belgian law. A Statute and a Manifesto for the ELI were adopted, and the first ELI Council was appointed. A procedure for determining the place of the ELI Secretariat was agreed upon.  

Founding Members of the European Law Institute