On 18 March the CNUE held a reception at the Solvay Library in Brussels to mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of its permanent office in the capital of Europe.
The event was attended by representatives of all the European notariats, as well as members of national and European political institutions. The reception was preceded by a conference on the theme of ‘CNUE – 1993-2013: 20 years at the service of European citizens’. One of the speakers, Mr Giancarlo Laurini, President of the Italian notariat and President of the CNUE in 1995 and 1996, gave the guests a history of the CNUE from its very beginning.
You will find a summary of his speech below:
"With the aim of making the defence of the notariat’s views more effective at national level, as well as at European and global level, the Conference of the Presidents of the Notariats of the six EEC founding countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) was born in Paris in 1976, with its memorandum of understanding signed under the auspices of and within the framework of the UINL.
From the very beginning, one of the principal subjects the Conference had to tackle was the notariat’s position concerning one of the EEC’s cardinal principles, which has never yet ceased to keep it occupied: citizens’ right to freedom of establishment and to exercise the activities of the liberal professions throughout the Community territory, and consequently the limits of the applicability to the notarial function of the exclusion provided for in Article 45 of the Treaty of Rome for activities of delegated public authority.
It was immediately clear that if notarial functions had been considered to figure among these activities the problem would have been immediately resolved. However, this was not to be, with the Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruling as recently as 24 May 2011 that a nationality condition for access to the profession of notary is unlawful. In this same judgment the Court does, however, recognise that notarial functions pursue objectives in the "public interest”, and uses this fact to justify even national laws linked to the specificities of the notariat regulating access to the profession and the numerus regulatus, in addition to those concerning professional ethics, fixed fees, limited territorial jurisdiction, etc. This is the position the CNUE had already adopted twenty years earlier, at its Assembly in Seville on 27 June 1992! Owing to the particular features of the notariat the CNUE strongly opposed simply extending the first Professional Qualifications Directive to cover notaries, and still opposes this in the draft revision of the Directive that is currently being considered by the Council and the European Parliament.
In 1989, 13 years after its foundation, the Conference of the Presidents became the Permanent Conference of the Notariats of the European Community, thereby affirming its nature as supranational association of notariats. In 1995 this association took the name Conference of the Notariats of the European Union, and then adopted its current name of Council of the Notariats of the European Union on 1 January 2006. In 1996 the CNUE introduced a one-year presidency system, following the model of the European institutions.
Since 1992, the CNUE has been constantly evolving, in terms of both its internal structure and its functions. Over the years the Council of the Notariats of the European Union has become progressively larger, first with the addition of Spain, Portugal and Austria, and then with nine additional notariats becoming members in 2004 in parallel with the enlargement of the EU, enabling the organisation to make a significant leap from 10 to 19 members. Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007, bringing the number of member notariats to 21 of the 27 EU Member States. The Croatian notariat will be added to their number on 1 July 2013, putting the organisation at the service of a total of over 400 million European citizens.
In September 2004 the CNUE held its first General Assembly, with 19 members. It laid the foundations for the future political activity of the European notariat, with notable features including its involvement in the ambitious project to create a “European legal area” and in the areas of contract and company law as well as family and succession law, working with the European institutions to study the legislative measures needed to reduce the frequent conflicts of law between Member States.
Already in the vanguard, the Conference then launched the idea of creating a European Network of Registers of Wills to facilitate cross-border searches for last wills and testaments. And in November 2007 it created the first European Notarial Network to provide European notaries with a simple, fast and reliable information exchange service for managing cross-border relations.
An early positive and tangible result of this work was the approval of the Regulation to simplify the settlement of international successions, which welcomed the CNUE’s proposal concerning the adoption of a European Certificate of Succession (ECS).
But the challenges that the CNUE intends to tackle in the future are even greater: the revision of the Brussels I Regulation and the work on matrimonial property regimes, contract law, consumer law, and the fight against money laundering.
The notariat’s contribution in recent years has not only been of a cultural and legal nature; it has also had a technological side, as evidenced by the creation of two portals that have been co-financed by the European Commission and incorporated into its e-Justice portal. These portals, which are available to all EU citizens, contain summaries of the law governing succession and property law in the 27 EU countries. And of course we must not forget the European Directory of Notaries.
The notariat has taken assertive action to provide solutions to problems faced by citizens and contribute to the construction of Europe. It will move this work forward with energy, in part thanks to the recognition of the function of the notary on the part of the Community authorities. As a legal professional specialising in contracts and holding delegated public authority, straddling the line between public and private, the notary today remains an exemplary model of the effective and trustworthy instrument of “subsidiarity” for public administration, which constitutes one of the great challenges in European society. Notaries may be found in 83 countries around of the world.
We can therefore safely say that it is partly thanks to notaries, operating from the bottom up, that there is a growing tendency in Europe to harmonise national legal systems in order to construct the common European legal area".