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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: December 2017

European Union and National Civil Procedure: The French Paradox



The phrase ‘French paradox’ usually designates a French singularity which is the relatively low incidence of cardiovascular disease in spite of the rather large proportion of saturated fats in the diet. Can this phrase also be applied to other aspects of French culture? This is the question that comes to mind when one tackles the issue of the links between European Union Law and national civil procedure.

Indeed, a priori, because of the principle of procedural autonomy of States that are members of the European Union (however tempered by the necessities of equivalence and effectiveness), the influence of the European Union on national civil procedures, and specifically on French national civil procedure, would seem extremely limited, and that should be the end of the matter. Nevertheless, some authors observe that ‘the actions taken by the European Union in the creation of the so-called ‘area of freedom, security and justice’ is considerable’ and conclude that ‘these regulations have a direct impact on French civil procedure’ (although they do not go into further detail).

These two contrasting views confirm the theory put forth by our Dutch Colleague, Mr Krans, of an ‘invisible pillar’ that is leading us, according to him, to the Europeanisation of procedural law. Naturally, this extremely interesting hypothesis6 emanating from a Dutchman leads one to consider the question as regards France. How can the situation be invisible to the naked eye of some, while it seems blindingly obvious to others? Probably because the phenomenon manifests itself mostly in indirect ways.

Because of the segmentation of the disciplines that are taught and the fields of research that are investigated, specialists tend to ignore problems that are part of other academic fields. Thus, for example, in France, conflicts of jurisdiction are traditionally studied by internationalists and consumer law procedure by consumer law specialists. This is the reason why, notably in these fields where the work done by the European Union is considerable, its greater consequences on the general theory of private judicial law are not really studied. Although they are alluded to here and there, they are never studied in depth.

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