Webinar ELI at 10: Future of Civil Procedural Law – ELI-UNIDROIT Model European Rules of Civil Procedure and Their Impact


On 20 July 2021, on the occasion of ELI’s 10th anniversary, ELI hosted a webinar on ‘Future of Civil Procedural Law – ELI-UNIDROIT Model European Rules of Civil Procedure and Their Impact’ to reflect on the impact the Model Rules have had and might have, in the field.

Building upon the Principles of Transnational Civil Procedure developed by the American Law Institute (ALI) and UNIDROIT in 2004, ELI and UNIDROIT jointly produced Model European Rules of Civil Procedure, which were approved by ELI Bodies and UNIDROIT Governing Council in 2020, with the aim to establish a frame of reference in civil procedure law for policymakers both at European and national levels. The Rules are available here, and the full version with comments will be published by the Oxford University Press (OUP) in August 2021.

Anna Veneziano (Chair, Deputy Secretary-General of UNIDROIT, Professor of Comparative Law at the University of Teramo; Member of the ELI-UNIDROIT Project’s Steering Committee), opened the webinar by presenting the history of the joint project and emphasising that the drafters had to consider a wide array of sources including European national laws, supranational regulations and international instruments.  The Model Rules, which were prepared by nine Working Groups, an overarching Structure Group and Steering Committee composed of legal experts of a wide variety of different European legal traditions, with the support from Institutional Observers, are divided into 12 parts accompanied by comments and should serve as best practice rules for the future development of the European civil procedure.

Magdalena Tulibacka (Adjunct Professor, Emory Law) presented the academic perspective on the ELI-UNIDROIT Model European Rules of Civil Procedure and its impact by defining the desired values and practical results with regard to civil procedure in general and in light of the proposed Model Rules in particular, and assessing the achieved outcome. With regard to desired aims of the Model Rules, two categories could be distinguished – internal and external ones. While the former relate to solutions for a variety of civil procedure steps, motions and roles of key players compliant with European traditions, advancing certain procedural solutions in line with the ‘European’ model of justice, the latter are focused on the role of civil procedure in the larger context of the local, national, inter- and supranational, global and transnational legal systems. When looking at the Model European Rules, one needs to bear in mind that the civil justice system and its components have an evolving nature, with the transition being noticeable on a global level. In addition, unification of civil procedures is not an option due to the cultural specificity and complexity of different judicial systems. In this context, model rules approach proves to be the most efficient way of much needed harmonisation of procedural systems. In her view, the ELI-UNIDROIT Model European Rules of Civil Procedure, which hare clear, efficient, purpose oriented and flexible to accommodate the fast transformation of the civil justice systems, will continue to play great role in this process serving as an inspiration.

Norel Rosner (Legal and Policy Officer, DG Justice and Consumers, Unit A1 Civil Justice) referred to the ELI-UNIDROIT Model European Rules of Civil Procedure as a high-quality project that serves as a point of reference in the European civil procedure and, in his view, will continue to do so in the following decades. He discussed the interplay between the Model Rules and the EU acquis, in particular focusing on instances when these Rules have influenced EU law, on their possible future impact, on the examples of EU acquis’ effect on the Model Rules and on illustrations where EU acquis should have been a more prominent source of influence. The output of some of the Working Groups of this Joint ELI-UNIDROIT project impacted the drafting of EU regulations on service of documents, with its revolutionary element of access to direct electronic service across borders, and on taking of evidence in cross-borders situations by videoconference. EU legislation can further be influenced by provisions of the Model Rules that address situations of limiting effect on the access to justice in cross-border situations, in particular, Rule 84 on longer or different procedural time-limits depending on the domicile of the addressee, and Rule 165 on the extension of time-limits for appeals if a party is not domiciled in the State where the court is located.On the other hand, the impact of EU acquis on the Model Rules can be observed in provisions dealing with lis pendens and cross-border provisional and protective measures. The EU recommendations on third-party funding and success fees could perhaps have served as a more balanced point of reference.

John Sorabji (Barrister, Senior Judicial Institute Fellow at University College London’s Judicial Institute; Member of the ELI-UNIDROIT Project’s Steering Committee) emphasised the significance of the ELI-UNDROIT Model European Rules in terms of work undertaken by academics, practices lawyers and judges from across Europe and in ensuring that ELI, collaborating with UNIDROIT, helped to further its aims by sharing different perspectives while finding a common ground and best practice for the future. We are already witnessing influence of the Model Rules on EU as well as national levels and potential impact within and beyond Europe manifested by, for instance, the forthcoming translation of the output into Chinese. He further commented on the impact of the Model Rules and their reciprocal relations to EU acquis, stressing the role of the Commission in the drafting process, and Model Rules’ influence on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament on common minimum standards of civil procedure. On the national level, some reforms have already been heavily influenced by the Model Rules, such as the reforms in Norway or digital reform programme of civil procedure system in Wales. It is the digital area that might serve as a basis for the real and lasting impact of the Model Rules - creating, shaping and enforcing the future civil procedure laws.

A lively discussion followed the presentations and focused on recent developments in the US Federal Rules, on the role of arbitrators and mediators in the future of civil procedure, and on the role of Alternative Dispute Resolution methods and their relation to courts, among others.

The recording of the webinar is available below.