European Law Institute (ELI)

From Max-EuP 2012

by Christiane Wendehorst

1. Tasks and Mission

The European Law Institute (ELI) is an independent non-profit organization established in 2011 under Belgian law <>. Its statutory seat is in Brussels, but its Secretariat, at least for an initial period of four years, is in Vienna. The main tasks of the ELI are to initiate, conduct and facilitate research, make recommendations and provide practical guidance in the field of European legal development. Its mission is the quest for better law-making in Europe, the enhancement of European legal integration, and the building up of a vigorous European legal community. As such its work covers all branches of the law: substantive and procedural; private and public.

The ELI is an international association based on individual membership, with a target number of several thousand members from all European countries and beyond, inter alia, judges, legal practitioners, and academics, who together represent a broad range of legal traditions. The added value of any ELI activity must therefore be to provide, through the independence, excellence and diversity of working teams and through the on-going critical guidance by a very broad constituency of jurists, well-founded solutions that find the support of the European legal community. Fellows must be natural persons and must undertake to participate in ELI activities on the basis of their own personal and professional convictions without regard to the interests of particular stakeholders. Natural persons who cannot give such undertaking of independence, and legal entities, such as EU institutions, national authorities, and other organizations, networks or businesses involved in legal development, may become observers.

The ELI operates on its own initiative. It is also, however, available for consultation by institutions involved in the development of law on a European, international or national level, and it is ready to seek cooperation with organizations such as the American Law Institute or UNIDROIT. Among ELI’s core activities are to evaluate and stimulate the development of EU law, legal policy, and practice, and in particular to make proposals for the further development of the acquis and for the enhancement of EU law implementation by the Member States. The ELI also seeks to conduct and facilitate pan-European research, in particular to draft, evaluate or improve principles and rules which are common to the European legal systems, and to provide a forum for discussion and cooperation of jurists who take an active interest in European legal development.

2. Structure

The ELI has the following statutory bodies: (1) a General Assembly, which is composed of all the Association’s Fellows; (2) a Council of members’ delegates elected by the General Assembly (‘Council’); (3) an Executive Committee, which is the Association’s administrative body; (4) a Senate, which is a consultative body of disinterested persons with an outstanding reputation; (5) an Arbitral Tribunal.

The Council consists of a maximum of 60 members, elected by the General Assembly from among the Fellows in a way adequately representing different legal traditions, disciplines and professions. It is the main decision making body of the ELI. However, important competences lie also with the General Assembly itself, in particular the election of the Council members, the approval of the accounts and the budget, and the approval of the results of ELI projects. The Council meets approximately twice a year, but decision making also occurs electronically in between meetings whenever the interests of the ELI so require. A regular General Assembly is held once a year.

The Executive Committee is the managing body. It consists of the President, the Vice-President, the Treasurer, and four ordinary members. On 31st May 2011, Sir Francis Jacobs was elected the first ELI President and Bénédicte Fauvarque-Cosson the first Vice-President.

3. ELI Projects

Any project carried out under the auspices of the ELI must fulfil four basic requirements: it must (1) serve the European citizen by improving the law or facilitating its application; (2) aim at results that potentially have immediate practical impact, eg in the form of draft rules, comments on rules or guiding tools of similar conciseness; (3) be effectuated through collaboration between jurists from academia and from legal practice; and (4) take a genuinely pan-European perspective as well as consider the achievements of the various legal cultures within Europe.

Projects carried out under the auspices of the ELI will often take the form of medium- to long-term projects (‘ELI Instruments’). The Council will appoint one or more reporters, either on its own initiative or after having carried out a call for tender. It will normally appoint advisors or consultants and establish a Members Consultative Committee. Project results may only be published as official statements of the ELI with the approval of both the Council and the General Assembly.

Projects carried out under the auspices of the ELI may also take the form of short-term reactions to current developments, the added value of which is to coordinate, and so far as possible to reconcile, the views taken by various European constituencies (‘ELI Statements’). Whenever a quick reaction of the ELI is required, the Executive Committee will appoint a project team as well as advisors or consultants. ELI Statements may only be published as such with the Council’s approval.

4. History

The ELI was inspired by the American Law Institute (ALI), which was founded in 1923 and has its headquarters in Philadelphia. Colleagues from the ALI were also instrumental in designing the ELI’s overall structure. However, the ELI is not just a copy of the ALI, as legal development in Europe differs significantly from the situation in the US.

a) The ELIA and EUI initiatives

In Europe, the idea of founding a European Law Institute has been discussed for more than a decade. In October 2008, a group of scholars from leading European law schools and research institutes convened in Brussels to discuss the project. Follow-up meetings took place in Prague, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Frankfurt. In March 2010, the Association for a European Law Institute (ELIA) was founded, which served to initiate and coordinate a Europe-wide de- bate. By 2011, the ELIA had around 250 members, academics from more than 100 European law faculties as well as judges and legal professionals.

Another, initially independent initiative towards the foundation of a European Law Institute was taken by the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. Four colleagues from the EUI launched a conference in April 2010, inviting many leading figures from European institutions and networks to discuss the idea. Among the speakers was Viviane Reding, then newly appointed Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, who had been a strong advocate for a European Law Institute ever since she took office.

b) Hamburg, Vienna, Athens

In June 2010, a meeting was held in Hamburg upon the invitation of Reinhard Zimmermann, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, in order to investigate how the ELIA and EUI initiatives could be brought together and to suggest a possible roadmap (‘Hamburg Memorandum’). A joint project group was formed by the two initiatives together with further networks, stakeholder organizations and observers from the European Commission. Upon the invitation of the President of the Austrian Supreme Court and of the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU, Irmgard Griss, a meeting was held in Vienna in November 2010. The results of this meeting are summarized in the ‘Vienna Memorandum’.

On 15 and 16 April 2011, the ELI Founding Committee convened in Athens upon the invitation of Spyridon Flogaitis, President of EPLO, in order to vote on a series of proposals submitted by working groups that had in the meantime been established. A statute and a manifesto for the ELI were adopted, and part of the first ELI Council was appointed with the proviso that further members would be co-opted in order to secure the adequate representation of different legal traditions, disciplines and professions. An open tender procedure for determining the place of the ELI Secretariat was agreed upon.

c) The Inaugural Congress in Paris

On 1 June 2011, the ELI inaugural congress took place in Paris, with highly renowned speakers from all major European institutions, many national supreme judicial courts or constitutional courts, and a broad range of professional or academic organizations. The Congress was organized by Bénédicte Fauvarque-Cosson, president of Trans Europe Experts (TEE). On the same day, the ELI was established as an Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif (AISBL) by Royal Decree under Belgian law.


Robert Schumann Centre for Advanced Studies (ed), RSCAS Policy Paper 2010/ 03: A European Law Institute? Towards Innovation in European Legal Integration, <>; Irmgard Griss, ‘Das European Law Institute’ (2011) 19 ZEuP 231; Reinhard Zimmermann, ‘Challenges for the European Law Institute’ (2012) 1 Edinburgh Law Review 5; Vassilios Skouris, ‘Towards a European Legal Culture’ (2012) 20 ZEuP 1.

Retrieved from European Law Institute (ELI) – Max-EuP 2012 on 18 May 2024.

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