Civil Liability in Europe

The Council of Europe has commissioned this project, which deals with the European dimensions of civil liability. The objective is to analyse whether a consistent concept of tort liability can be found in Europe and if so, to what extent. Are there any attempts being made for a comprehensive, coherent European liability law, or is a fundamental concept missing? Are the individual regulations of civil liability consistent with one another? The project aims to present a general overview of the situation while pointing out gaps and discrepancies, similarities and accordances in the field of delictual liability.

Different regulations in the field of liability exist in Europe, originating from most diverse sources. The Council of Europe was first to become active in this field, later and to a considerable extent also the European Union. Furthermore, a great number of international conventions and treaties have an impact on civil liability in the signatory states.

The European Union in particular has initiated a substantial number of individual pieces of legislation and proposals dealing with rather detailed questions of tort liability. Because of the lack of general rules on civil liability, the present "acquis communautaire" is composed of a variety of different individual directives, regulations and judgements of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The international conventions and treaties in force also have an impact on the laws of the European Union Member States, as many of them are signatories of most different international treaties.

The first step of the project was to list all the important directives, council regulations, conventions and principles of jurisdiction dealing with tort liability and to explain briefly their contents as far as their relevance for civil liability is concerned.

On the basis of this overview of the present situation, the second step was to point out concrete harmonies, discrepancies and gaps that can be found in the law in force. The last step was to draw conclusions and to point out necessary new or further regulations, the need for co-ordination in the field of civil liability, and the necessity of a general concept of liability.