Ms Françoise LE BAIL - Challenges and Opportunities for the European Notariat

posted in: CNUE news

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Speech by Ms Françoise LE BAIL, Director General of DG Justice, at the CNUE’s 20th anniversary celebrations

Monday 18 March 2013

[…] "The Council of the Notariats of the European Union has always been, and will continue to be, a pioneer and privileged partner of the Commission in this construction of the European Area of Justice. The added value of this strategic partnership is particularly visible at two levels.

Firstly, you contribute, through specific projects, to the functioning of the European Area of Justice on the ground. Here I am thinking of how you developed a tool to enable citizens to find a notary anywhere in Europe – Find a Notary – which should be integrated into the e-Justice portal in 2013. The success of the European Internet portal “successions-europe.eu” also comes to mind. This portal, which was put online in 23 languages in 2010 with the financial support of the Commission, facilitates access to the law for citizens. Now, along with you, we are envisaging transforming this success to integrate the products of the portal in the work of the European Judicial Network. Another very interesting project you have carried out is the creation of the multilingual “Couples in Europe” website. This site is a great help to citizens looking for information on the law on matrimonial property regimes and the property consequences of registered partnerships in the different Member States. […]

I would like to focus on five significant challenges in which cooperating with the Council of the Notariats will be essential.

1) Let’s start with wills! A significant step towards the construction of a real Europe for citizens was made last year with the adoption of the Succession Regulation. Here we have met a real need for a European framework to facilitate the settlement of the roughly 450,000 cross-border successions that are opened in the EU every year. The total value of these successions is estimated at around EUR 123 billion.

I am delighted that the Council of the Notariats provided its support and expertise throughout the legislative process in order to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. Now that the Regulation has been adopted, we must continue to work together for its implementation, which is planned for summer 2015. I know that you are already preparing for this.
One of the essential elements in the implementation of this new legislation will be the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. This certificate will significantly speed up cross-border succession procedures for heirs. Notaries will be able to draw up certificates in their quality as public office holders responsible for successions. The certificate will make it possible to prove throughout the European Union that a person is an heir or legatee or has the authority to administrate or execute a succession.

We are currently preparing for the adoption of all the annexed forms, including the European Certificate of Succession. The work of the Committee that is supporting the Commission in this task will soon be completed.

(2) Another challenge will be negotiating and implementing the future legislative proposal on the simplification of administrative procedures for public documents. This proposal will be presented to the College by Vice-President Viviane Reding on 24 April 2013. With the number of public documents transferred between Member States every year estimated at 1.4 million, this proposal will be of the utmost importance in the lives of citizens and for businesses in Europe. It will also make notaries’ work easier, as the authentic instruments you draw up will benefit from these simplifications. It is primarily a matter of abolishing the requirements for any type of super-legalisation or apostille for authentic instruments.

At the same time, we are going to propose that administrative cooperation between Member States be increased, in order to enable better verification of the authenticity of public documents and to combat fraud.

The Council of the Notariats has been consulted several times during the process of drawing up this draft. I am confident that the notariat will be one of the most significant partners in this proposal.

3) Challenges also remain in the area of family law. The figures speak for themselves: we estimate that over 16 million relationships in the European Union have a cross-border dimension. The amounts at stake when these couples separate or relationships are brought to an end by a death are considerable.

Adopting European legislation to allow mutual recognition of matrimonial property regimes has long been a priority. In 2010 the Stockholm Programme extended this to cover the property consequences of couples separating.

The Commission took up this challenge in 2011 by proposing two regulations, one on matrimonial property regimes and one on the property consequences of registered partnerships, which are currently under negotiation. The proposals provide for harmonised rules on jurisdiction, the determination of the applicable law and the free circulation of decisions and authentic instruments.

As these instruments relate to family law, they must be adopted unanimously by the Council, after the European Parliament has given its opinion. This is an area of law which is particularly sensitive to national traditions. Guidelines were approved for the two drafts under the Cypriot Presidency, and the parallel examination of the two texts is continuing under the current Irish Presidency. We are hoping that an acceptable compromise on the two proposals will be reached by the current trio of Presidencies.

(4) Another challenge that I would like to mention is the Common European Sales Law. In these times of austerity, the Common European Sales Law aims to enable consumers and businesses to enjoy the full benefits of the Internal Market.

Thanks to this innovative instrument, the three quarters of European businesses that do not currently export will be able to tap into new markets at less expense. For instance, a company that sells products online could do this using a single Internet platform and a single model contract.

Consumers will also have access to a greater number of products at more competitive prices, while at the same time benefitting from a greater level of protection. This instrument would strengthen existing European consumer law and go further than the national law of most countries.
And this will all be done without affecting national law, since the Common European Sales Law is optional. It will provide an alternative set of rules that will be available within the legal system of each Member State, alongside their national legislation, in order to facilitate cross-border transactions.

The Council of the Notariats has repeatedly stressed the necessity of guaranteeing legal certainty, for which I am grateful. Many stakeholder suggestions are constructive and useful, and the European Commission is prepared to take some of them into account during the legislative process. […]

5) The final challenge I would like to mention is European legal training.
As you know, training in European law for legal professionals is one of the priorities of the Directorate-General for Justice. It is vital to ensuring that EU law is applied effectively and, more generally, to promoting a real European legal culture based on mutual trust.

In September 2011 the European Commission adopted a Communication on European legal training, in which it set itself the ambitious objective of having half of the 1,400,000 legal practitioners in the European Union take part in training in European law by 2020.

At this point I would like to welcome the creation of a training committee within the European Notarial Network in 2009. But above all I want to congratulate you on the wonderful project you submitted for European Commission co-financing to train 2,000 notaries in succession law in two years. I would like you to know that your grant of EUR 1 million was the largest grant awarded in the framework of the Civil Justice Programme last year.

You have clearly demonstrated your desire to take part in the challenge of training as many legal professionals as possible in European law. I thank you for that, and I would encourage you to continue your efforts in this area.

Moreover, I am delighted with the theme you have chosen for the 14 training seminars that you are going to organise. The proper application of the new Succession Regulation that I have just mentioned is of course one of our priorities". […]