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Civil Procedure Harmonisation in the EU: Unravelling the Policy Considerations

Zabia Vernadaki

The present work investigates the role and significance of the right of access to justice in the on-going debate concerning the procedural harmonisation in the EU in the context of cross-border civil litigation. Procedural diversity could affect the creation of a genuine area of justice where individuals and businesses can approach courts in any Member State as easily as in their own, not being prevented or discouraged from exercising their rights by the complexity of the legal systems in the Member States. Unless there are efficient, accurate, and transparent judicial mechanisms accessible at reasonable costs, effective access to justice is not guaranteed. Three important considerations derive from this discussion. Firstly, common procedural rules are not sought because of scholarly considerations or aesthetic symmetry in the EU, but as a tool to enable effective access to justice to be realised. Secondly, such effectiveness will not be world-wide but only regional: both the connection with effective access to justice and its regional rather than global character bear witness to the practical rather than the purely doctrinal nature of the whole exercise. Thirdly, the new Article 81 (2) (e) TFEU contains an explicit provision for the approximation of Member States' civil procedural rules when it comes to securing effective access to justice; combining this provision with Article 47 CFREU on effective legal remedies, a legitimising tool in regulation of cross-border civil justice by the EU will be established with the effect of inducing greater approximation of Member States' civil procedure systems.

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