The 2013 ELI Projects Conference and General Assembly

ELI's Annual Conference and General Assembly took place from 46 September 2013, bringing together many of the Institute’s Members and guests, among them many representatives of the European Institutions, interested in learning about projects and other recent developments.

In the afternoon of 4 September, ELI launched its Austrian Hub, a local chapter envisioned as a communication point that will enable Members in the country to have closer relations with the Institute. Hubs have already been established in the UK and France, and the launch of a Hub in Germany took place on 13 September 2013.

The Austrian Hub launch, which featured many prominent panellists debating the current status of European legal integration, was moderated by Irmgard Griss, then Speaker of the ELI Senate and former President of the Austrian Supreme Court. The keynote address was delivered by Franz Fischler, President of the European Forum Alpbach and a former EU Commissioner. From the host venue, Haus der Europäischen Union, the guests then proceeded to the beautiful courtyard of the University of Vienna, where an official opening of the General Assembly took place under the auspices of Rector Heinz W Engl. Lance Liebman, former Director of the American Law Institute on which ELI is partly modelled, delivered the opening keynote. He offered advice from the experience harnessed by this long-standing institution while recognising ELI’s unique position as a unifier of diverse legal traditions and cultures.

On 5 September 2013, the participants of the Projects Conference heard from the then Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding. Commissioner Reding, a long standing supporter of the Institute, reflected in her video message on the progress achieved in the two years since she spoke at the opening of the Institute’s Secretariat in Vienna.

The panel discussions that followed focused on three of ELI’s current projects. The project leaders’ presentations on the work in progress were followed by an intense discussion from engaged participants. The presence of representatives from the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Ombudsman’s Office further enriched the debate. The comments and points made at the Conference served as a source of inspiration for members of different ELI working groups and will be carefully considered while preparing final documents.

Lord John Thomas, Chair of the Working Group for the ELI Statement on the Proposal for a Common European Sales Law (CESL) and now former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, presented ELI’s Statement, which seeks to provide European Institutions with a set of concrete proposals for amendments. These were arranged in a comprehensive format as a full redraft of the CESL to demonstrate how the proposal might work in context. The ELI Statement is envisioned not as an alternative, competing proposal but rather a draft which presents a range of options. The second CESLrelated panel, chaired by member of the ELI CESL Advisory Committee Friedrich Graf von Westphalen, elaborated on the Working Group’s new focus on e-commerce and digital content, highlighting some key findings concerning the CESL’s application to online transactions.

Martin Schauer, professor at the University of Vienna and the project leader of the ELI Statement on the European Foundation Statute led the discussion on the Institute’s engagement with the Commission’s proposal for a Council Regulation on the Statute for a European Foundation (FE). The ELI Working Group has been assessing the proposal, making suggestions for its further development in the form of draft amendments aimed at increasing legal certainty and the instrument’s practical utility.

The third of the day’s panels, led by Professor Jens-Peter Schneider, focused on the project that the Institute is conducting in cooperation with the Research Network on the EU Administrative Law (ReNEUAL) entitled 'Towards Restatement and Best Practices Guidelines on EU Administrative Procedural Law.' The aim of the project is to produce draft model rules in the field of the European administrative procedural law that would simplify the current patchwork of legislation as well as propose best practices and solutions for some issues that remain unresolved.

Following the panel discussions, the Members Consultative Committees (MCC) convened. Katalin Ligeti, one of the reporters of the Prevention and Settlement of Conflicts of Exercise of Jurisdiction in Criminal Law project, introduced the project to MCC members. The MCC meeting for the EU Administrative Law project, chaired by Marc Clément (ELI Council and subsequently Executive Committee member), gave an opportunity to Members to meet in person and divide work to be conducted in the months to come.

The evening presented the guests with a chance to wind down and enjoy the gala dinner, generously sponsored by one of the leading Austrian law firms, Kunz Schima Wallentin, in the spectacular setting of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. In addition to the delicious menu, guests were invited to visit the unique art collection of the famous Kunstkammer, which remained open beyond the official closing hours, allowing ELI guests an exclusive look at some of the most treasured works of art in Austria.

At the General Assembly, held on 6 September 2013, ELI Members had the opportunity to hear about the most recent developments at the Institute and the work of the various committees. Former Secretary-General of the International Institute for the Unification of European Private Law (UNIDROIT) José Angelo Estrella Faria delivered the keynote address on 'Globalisation, Legal Identity and Regional Integration: Complementarity or Conflict?'. Fellows also cast their ballots in ELI Council elections, which were followed by the first meeting of the newly elected Council. At the meeting, members of the new Executive Committee were elected.

The event offered a platform where attendees could reflect on ELI’s formative years and take stock of the Institute’s many accomplishments in the short period of time since its inception in 2011. It was also an opportunity to thank the outgoing president Sir Francis Jacobs for his tremendous commitment in guiding the Institute and seeing it 'come of age.' Sir Francis Jacobs handed the baton over to Diana Wallis, a former member of the European Parliament and an ELI Council Member, who was elected to head the Institute as its new President.