What is the "Law of Europe"? Is there really one set of laws for business transactions in Europe? Yes, there generally is.

During the course of many transactions for our clients, throughout Europe and literally from Portugal to Poland and from Scotland to Sicily, involving projects as varied as setting up pan-European employment plans, dealing with cross-border environmental law liabilities and implementing international construction projects and data protection programs, we have noticed a surprising but very useful thing. The laws in Europe in those and many other areas are substantially the same, in every country.

We have written this book in order to share our experiences with our clients and friends.

We believe that there are several reasons for comprehensive European legal convergence, including the legislative and judicial activities of the European Union ("EU") which, by early 2004, will have expanded to include more than 20 countries comprising about 90% of Europe's population, all subject to EU laws. Other important convergence factors are: the common economic and monetary policy which prevails throughout most of the EU; the substantial growth of multi-national business operations throughout the continent and their commercial requirements for local uniformity; and the simple fact that many local rules and exceptions only had an historical basis anyway and were of little relevance in the context of a single trading area that comprises more than 550 million people living and working in an information age.

We have divided the book into sections which we hope will be as easy to follow as is the central message, namely, that there is a "Law of Europe" and that what few local exceptions survive only rarely make a difference.

In the first section of the book, we briefly describe what we mean by "Europe". This term includes every country in the EU, plus Norway and Switzerland, plus more than a dozen countries that will soon join the EU, hence a Europe which extends from Aberystwyth, in Wales, to Zabbar in Malta, and from Alteevla, in Norway, to Zakopane, in Poland.

We then retrace with you the results of our own learning experience in the fields of employment law, environmental law and construction, all across Europe (pages 8-27). We then move on to a group of topics which are of general legal interest, such as contracts and commercial law, corporations, financial issues, insurance, product liability and real estate (pages 28-51). We next cover antitrust and competition issues, as well as

issues affecting international trade in general (such as customs duties, tariffs, antidumping rules and subsidies) (pages 52-59) and complete the section with some coverage of European energy law and transportation law (pages 62-65).

We also have a section devoted to specific high-tech subjects: bioscience, e-commerce, intellectual property and information technology, including a separate chapter for telecommunications (pages 66-75). We end the substantive part of our coverage with chapters on insolvency and dispute resolution (pages 76-85).

The final section includes (i) a chapter on special legal terminology which is used throughout Europe but with which business people from abroad may not be familiar and which Europeans who are familiar with them will find convenient to have assembled into one handy collection (pages 86-89), (ii) a chart based upon a database we prepared of major EU legislation covering a broad range of topics whose legal treatment is uniform throughout the EU and with barely any important differences anywhere else in Europe (pages 90-97) and (iii) a detailed analytical index to the whole book (pages 98-101). (The database is electronically searchable via the interactive database version of the book, that is, specific EU Regulations and Directives can be matched electronically with the individual legal topics to which they relate. Example on page 61.)

The story is ongoing: the EU is working towards a common civil code, a common law of contracts and a common law of corporations and has reached agreement for a common community patent law. In the sense that a constitution is a set of comprehensive and legally binding rules establishing the rights of citizens and the duties of governments, the EU already has a constitution, which is in the course of being codified.

In trying to bring these various topics together in a handy book format, we were reminded of a quote from Henry Kissinger, while US Secretary of State, who lamented: "When I need to get in touch with the Kremlin, I know who to call. When 1 need to get in touch with Europe, who do I call?"

Business people do not need to ask that question today, to get in touch with Europe.

The European Union is based on the rule of law. This means that everything that it does is derived from treaties, which are agreed on voluntarily and democratically by all Member States. Previously signed treaties have been changed and updated to keep up with developments in society. The draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, aimed at replacing all the existing Treaties with a single text, was the result of the work done by the Convention on the Future of Europe and an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). The Constitution was adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the Brussels European Council on 17 and 18 June 2004 and was signed in Rome on 29 October 2004. Following the rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands in 2005 and a two year reflection period, on the 23rd of June 2007 the EU leaders agreed on a mandate for a new Intergovernmental Conference. The task of this Intergovernmental conference will be to draw up a new Treaty on Institutional reform by the end of 2007.

The Treaty of Amsterdam, signed on 2 October 1997, entered into force on 1 May 1999. It amended and renumbered the EU and EC Treaties. Consolidated versions of the EU and EC Treaties are attached to it. The Treaty of Amsterdam changed the articles of the Treaty on European Union, identified by letters A to S, into numerical form.

The Treaty on European Union, which was signed in Maastricht on 7 February 1992, entered into force on 1 November 1993. 'The Maastricht Treaty changed the name of the European Economic Community to simply "the European Community". It also introduced new forms of co-operation between the Member State governments - for example on defence, and in the area of "justice and home affairs". By adding this inter-governmental co-operation to the existing "Community" system, the Maastricht Treaty created a new structure with three "pillars" which is political as well economic. This is the European Union (EU).

The Single European Act (SEA), signed in Luxembourg and the Hague, and entered into force on 1 July 1987, provided for the adaptations required for the achievement of the Internal Market.

The Merger Treaty, signed in Brussels on 8 April 1965 and in force since 1 July 1967, which provided for a Single Commission and a Single Council of the then three European Communities.

The Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was signed on 18 April 1951 in Paris, entered into force on 23 July 1952 and expired on 23 July 2002.

Moreover, the founding treaties have been amended on several occasions, in particular when new Member States acceded in 1973 (Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom), 1981 (Greece), 1986 (Spain, Portugal), 1995 (Austria, Finland, Sweden) and 2004 (the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia).

Based on the Treaties, EU institutions can adopt legislation, which is then implemented by the Member States. The texts published in the Official Journal (EUR-Lex) are the only authentic versions.

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