Private International Law

Private International Law in Europe

Private international law in relation to the E.U. Services Directive

The following is an examination of private international law regarding the European Union Servicies Directive [1]:

Private international law: the Relationship between the EU Services Directive and specific areas of law and policy

As stated in Article 3(2), the Services Directive does not concern rules of private international law. Private international law rules, including the Rome Convention (and future Rome I and Rome II regulations)32, determine which private law, rules are applicable, in particular to contractual and non-contractual obligations, in cases of litigation between providers and recipients of services or other providers. In its Article 17(15), the Services Directive provides for a specific derogation from the freedom to provide services clause, and thus ensures that rules of private international law will not be affected by the implementation of the Services Directive. This is true for all rules of private international law, including those, as in Article 5 of the Rome Convention, which provide that in specific cases involving consumers the law of the state of the habitual residence of the consumer applies. It should, however, be noted that private international law rules only determine which private law rules apply to a contractual or extra-contractual relation, including one between a service provider and a consumer. They do not, for instance, determine which rules of public law apply. Whether or not the rules of the Member State of habitual residence of the consumer, other than private law rules, can be applied to a specific service provider is not determined by private international law but is governed by the Services Directive, in particular Article 16.

Finally, the Services Directive does not concern the jurisdiction of courts. These questions are regulated by the existing Community Regulation concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters33.

Private international law and the European Judicial System

Description of Private international law provided by the European Union Commission: Private international law, as used in its broad sense, means the set of legal rules governing international relations between private individuals. The expression private international law does not have the same meaning in all the Member States. In German and Portuguese law, for example, it refers solely to the rules on conflict of laws (see applicable law), whereas in other systems it includes the rules on international jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. All these rules relating to the applicable law, international jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments provide solutions to the difficulties that can flow from the fact that a single case can involve several separate legal systems. An example might be the case of a married couple of mixed nationality who are thinking of divorcing: which court will have jurisdiction to order the divorce, and what law will it apply? Another example would be where an accident occurs in a Member State and prompts environmental pollution that causes loss in several other Member States. Which State’s courts should the victims go to? And which law will the courts apply? The sources of the rules of private international law are the legislation, case-law and academic writings in each of the States. Despite the name, private international law is a creature of national law alone. Certain of these national rules may have been standardised in international conventions and possibly also in Community instruments. Standardisation makes it possible to avoid situations where the courts of two States claim jurisdiction under their national rules of private international law and give conflicting judgments in the same case.


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  1. Information on private international law based on the EU Services Directive Handbook, UK Government

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