A Century of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch: German Legal Uniformity and European Private Law

5 Colum. J. Eur. L. 461 (1999)

Reiner Schulz. Judge of the Higher regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) Hamm, Director of the Institute of International Business Law and the Institute of Legal History, University of Münster.

In some  European  countries, the  terms “internationalization” and “Europeanization” are used to describe new tendencies in their private law. The discussion about these tendencies has coincided with the centenary of the most important German legal code in private law, the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB). This coincidence justifies consideration of the role of a traditional national code such as the BGB in light of the changes in private law which are associated with “internationalization” and “Europeanization.” In particular, one has to consider how this Europeanization is conceived in private law (1) and how this conception affects the perception of the German BGB (II). Furthermore, the development of Regulations, Directives and Decisions of the European Union in areas of private law provokes the question whether a supranational legal code enacted by the EU should replace the BGB and the other national codes, thereby establishing a uniform private law in the 15 Member States of the Union (III). If this should not happen in the near future, European lawyers-and foreign lawyers dealing with private law in Europe-have to consider the existence of a new kind of pluralism within private law containing national, international and supranational law (IV). Particularly the consequences concerning the legislature, jurisprudence and legal education have to be discussed (V).