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At its recent Justice and Home Affairs meeting (2752nd), the Council adopted a decision on the accession of the European Community to the Hague Conference on private international law (HCCH) (7591/06). Page 30 of the press release states:

At present, the Community enjoys only observer status in the HCCH. Full membership is necessary for two reasons. It would grant the Community a status consistent with its new role as a major international player in the field of civil judicial cooperation. It would also enable the Community to fully participate in the negotiation of conventions in areas of its competence by expressing its views and positions and ensuring consistency and coherence between its own rules and envisaged international instruments. Moreover, the Community as such rather than its Member States would be the subject of the rights and obligations stemming from Hague Conventions in areas of its competence.

The Hague Conference on private international law is a long-established international organisation with the objective of ensuring the progressive unification of the rules of private international law, mainly by negotiating and drafting international conventions (www.hcch.net).

In other news, the Council confirmed its common position on the European Small Claims Procedure.

Following its agreement on 1 and 2 June 2006 and after completion of the work on recitals and standard forms, the Council confirmed its general agreement on the whole of a draft regulation establishing a European small claims procedure. The European Parliament has not yet delivered its opinion in first reading.

The purpose of this proposal is to simplify and speed up litigation concerning small claims in crossborder cases and to reduce costs by establishing a European Procedure for Small Claims. The proposal also eliminates the intermediate measures necessary to enable recognition and enforcement of judgments given in one Member State in a European Small Claims Procedure in other Member States.

This draft Regulation will apply, in cross-border cases, in civil and commercial matters, whatever the nature of the court or tribunal, where the value of a claim does not exceed EUR 2000 at the time the procedure is commenced, excluding all interest, expenses and outlays. Litigation on revenue, customs or administrative matters or the liability of the State for acts and omissions in the exercise of state authority is excluded from the scope of application.

…A claimant will commence the European Small Claims Procedure by completing a claim form set out in the Annex to the text and lodging it at the competent court or tribunal directly, by post or by any other means of communication such as fax or e-mail acceptable to the Member State in which the procedure is commenced. The claim form will include a description of evidence supporting the claim and be accompanied, where appropriate, by any relevant supporting documents. Once the Regulation will be adopted, it will be applied in all Member States with the exception of Denmark. (p.28-29)

The full press release for both items can be found here.

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