Book Review: Towards a European Civil Code. Edited by Arthur Hartkamp, Martijn Hesselink, Ewoud Hondius, Carla Joustra and Edgar Du Perron. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2d Ed., 1998. 652 Pages.

6 Colum. J. Eur. L. 157 (2000)

reviewed by Miriam Parmentier.

There is a “new European challenge to lawyers in Europe”: the codification of a unified European private law. The concept of a European civil code has been advocated for a number of years. This book aims to shed light on the possible content of such a codification. When the European Parliament joined in the chorus calling for the elaboration of a unified code of private law for EU member states, a group of scholars from the Netherlands started gathering legal academics’ opinions on a future civil code for the European countries and, in the first edition of this book in 1994, produced one of the first major publications on the unification of private law throughout Europe. The present, second edition aims to further pave the way towards a European Civil Code.

In response to manifold developments which occurred after the publication of the first edition, namely the publication of the Principles of Contract Law by UNIDROIT and the Lando Commission, respectively, and an increasing number of scholarly treatises presenting particular fields of the law in a European perspective, editors Arthur Hartkamp, Martijn Hesselink, Ewoud Hondius, Carla Joustra and Edgar du Perron undertook this second revised and expanded edition.

The volume contains a collection of essays by scholars from Belgium (Marcel Fontaine, Walter van Gerven, Yves-Henri Leleu, Matthias Storme, und Alain Verbeke), Denmark (Ole Lando), England (Hugh Beale, David Howarth, and Geraint Howells), Finland (Thomas Wilhelmsson), France (Francois Barrière, Muriel Fabre-Magnan, Michel Grimaldi, Denis Tallon, and André Tunc), Germany (Christian von Bar, Ulrich Drobnig, Peter Hommelhoff, Hein Kötz, Dieter Martiny, Peter-Christian Müller-Graff, Hans Wehrens, and Reinhard Zimmermann), Greece (Konstantinos Kerameus), Italy (Rodolfo Sacco), the Netherlands (Gerrit Betlem, Jan Dalhuisen, Filip de Ly, Sjef van Erp, Franco Ferrari, Arthur Hartkamp, Martijn Hesselink, Ewoud Hondius, Carla Joustra, and Edgar du Perron), Scotland (Eric Clive), and the United States (Richard Hyland). The contributors were asked to put forward their suggestions on the feasibility and the possible content of a codification of unified European private law.

Whereas at the time of the first edition, the very idea of such a codification seemed bold and adventurous, by now European private law has become an established field of research and teaching in European universities. While the first edition also investigated  the desirability of a unified European body private law, the editors of this second edition asked the contributors to assume that, given the trend towards unification of European private law, a codification is both desirable as such and constitutional within the realm of the European Union. They requested to assess the feasibility of a unified code, and to consider which particular legal issues should be dealt with and how these problems might be resolved.

Thus to simply call the book a second edition does not fully do it justice. Not only is the second publication distinct from the first one through the addition of several new areas of law, namely on specific contracts, trusts and company law, thereby increasing the number of chapters from twenty-two to thirty-six.’ Rather, the second edition is designed to take on a different perspective altogether and, therefore, might actually be viewed as a sequel to the first edition.