The great flow of transactions permitted by the suppression of borders gives rise day after day to a large number of disputes. Seventeen different sets of procedural rules are put into action to deal with them, one for each Member State, but with the United Kindom having three of them. Procedures which differ from each other in their content, their speed and their cost, in the effectiveness of the measures they place at the disposal of litigants, and in their suitability for ensuring the enforcement of those measures. These differences constitute, in many respects, a serious obstacle to the establishment and functioning of the internal market. They obscure the rules of the game for the litigant who must bring or defend and action away from the state of his domicile. They find expression in very unequal procedural costs from one country to the next. The means of action put at the disposal of individuals are, in fact, of very variable efficacy.
In order to remedy that state of affairs, a first attempt to tackle the issue was made on the basis of Article 100 A of the Treaty of Rome. Under the direction of Professor Marcel Storme, with the support of the European Commission, these efforts resulted in a draft directive which tried to eradicate the differences whose undesirable effects seemed to be the most serious. Being mainly technical in character, these proposals would have led to amendments of varying extent in the national procedural laws concerned.
In the light of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which "communitarises" civil judicial cooperation, the Commission has recently addressed a Communication to the Council and the Parliament which outlines a certain number of "avenues to be explored for an improvement in the administration of justice in the European Union". The matters particularly addressed are the wider use and harmonisation of summary procedures for the payment of money, the availability for all individuals of a comparable armoury of procedures in relation to the availability of information about a debtor's assets, and the harmonisation of the rules on garnishment of bank accounts. The first two issues are directly inspired by the proposals made by the Storme Working Group.
At the same time, several paths have opened up which are relevant to the international aspects of litigation. The are all intended to remove the undersirable effects which the remaining vestiges of national borders produce. This applies to the Brussels Convention of 26 May 1997, relating to the service of documents between EU Member States, and to the search for provisions adapted to facilitate the free movement and enforcement of judgments (simplification of the procedure for exequatur, creation of a "European enforceable instrument"), passing by way of the organisation of an exchange of information between the enforcement authorities in the various Member States to avoid the possibility that a clever exploitation of national borders may permit debtors evade pursuit by their creditors. To these must be added the draft directive on injunctions for the protection of consumers' interests. The entities entitled to defend the consumers' interests in one Member State should also have the legal capacity to do so beyond their national borders when the occasion arises.European Review of Private Law