Dr. Inés Sánchez-Ventura Morer, University of Navarra

I arrived at the Institute on the 1May 2016 for a postdoctoral research stay of five months. My research focuses on European consumer contract law: unfair terms. The United Kingdom has recently unified through the Consumer Rights Act 2015, most of its domestic legislation in consumer contract law. Until 2015, the consumer protection regime was extremely complex and fragmented. Most of the statutes implemented European Directives. Special mention should be made of the rules related to unfair terms in consumer contracts. Before the Consumer Rights Act 2015, we could find two regimes regulating unfair terms: Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 applied to exemption clauses in consumer and non-consumer contracts, and The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 which implemented the Directive 93/13/CEE of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts. As a result there was some overlap between the two regulations. the Consumer Rights Act 2015 has unified these two regimes that coexisted for 20 years. Since 2015, the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 is not applied to consumer contracts.  

The subject matter of my research was the role of the transparency principle and its connection with the duty of disclosure of information that is due by the seller or supplier to the consumer. The rule of 2015 has introduced new requirements in relation to this principle. As a result of this research I have done a comparative study between the English and the Spanish system.

I have taken into account the principles of English Contract law, the great influence that European Union has had in domestic legislation and the criteria the European Court of Justice has developed to assist judges in interpreting the different principles and concepts Directive 93/13/CEE introduced.

The IECL provides a friendly atmosphere that allows a continuous exchange of opinions. At the Institute I have had the opportunity to meet researchers from all over Europe. Especially through the meetings the IECL organises every Friday where we have a chance to meet not only visitors but also fellows and professors from the University of Oxford.

Dr Pernilla Leviner, University of Stockholm

(Stockholm Senior Visiting Fellow, 2015-16)

I was blessed with being able to take a sabbatical at the IECL during the first half of 2016, generously financed by the Faculty of Law, Stockholm University as part of the Oxford-Stockholm Collaboration.

My main focus was a project in family law concerning children’s rights to participation and the role and function of legal representatives in child protection cases. I compared the Swedish system with that in England and Wales, and there the specific framework with tandem representation for children. As part of this project – and also inspired by comparing the two systems - I have begun addressing the concept of consent and autonomy for vulnerable groups such as parents and children in child protection proceedings.

In Oxford I was able to discuss questions relating to my research with many scholars at the Institute as well as at both the Faculty of Law and other faculties at the University. I am particularly indebted to Professors Jonathan Herring, John Eekelaar, Mavis Maclean and Lucinda Ferguson. It was a privilege to participate in the Children’s and Family Law Discussion Group at the Faculty of Law – where I held a seminar on the Swedish ban on physical punishment – and also attend events organised by the Oxford Children’s Rights Network. I am also very grateful for the possibility to observe proceedings in Family Courts and meet with both social workers and lawyers working in the field. This was made possible by the generous help and network of colleagues at the Institute and the Faculty.

As often happens when addressing a different legal system in that very practical way, I was inspired to write about other topics such as adoption and surrogacy arrangements, both of which demonstrate significant differences in comparisons of the legislation in England and Wales to Sweden.

The time spent at Oxford gave a lot of input and inspiration but also some output ;-). Apart from having started working on a book on participation and legal representation for children I have also finalised a couple of articles on these topics. I am very grateful for having had the possibility of a sabbatical in Oxford. The research environment at the IECL is very inspiring and I greatly enjoyed the Friday coffee meetings. I was also lucky to be an associate member of Exeter College which gave me the opportunity to experience the very special and friendly atmosphere of Oxford college and also meet with so many inspiring researchers from many different fields of science.

Dr Raúl Lafuente, University of Alicante

In January 2014 I joined the Institute of European and Comparative Law as Academic visitor. Since them, I have visited the Institute three times for the purpose of carrying out research work. 

My research project has focused on international successions and the conflict of laws, aiming to identify the differences between Common law and Civil law systems, and the practical problems arising in determining the Court's jurisdiction and the applicable law after the entry into force of the European Union Successions Regulation, specially for the successions of British nationals with habitual residence in Spain. The research carried out during this time has been very productive and highly rewarding and the access to the bibliographical funds of the Bodleian Law Library has been essential in order to conduct and develop my research. As a result, I have published several articles related to international successions, testamentary trusts, and the conflict of laws. 

My research periods at the Institute have also been a good opportunity to attend the numerous academic activities organised by the University of Oxford, and have provided me with the possibility to meet other colleagues not only from Oxford University but also from other countries around the world which are working on research projects linked up with my research topic. The research environment provided by the IECL is fantastic and represents a unique and exceptional opportunity for carrying out research work. Therefore, I wish to express my gratitude to the Governance of the Institute for having been admitted as Visitor, specially to John Cartwright, Alexandra Braun and Jenny Dix for their assistance, help and advice during my visits at the Institute. I would also like to thank all my colleagues for their support and friendship. It has been a pleasure working with them and sharing coffees and lunches in Oxford.

Professor Fernando Llano-Alonso, University of Seville

My research topic at the Institute of European and Comparative Law concerned the General Principles of the European Union, particularly focusing on the Principle of Subsidiarity from a legal-theoretical perspective, and also taking a hermeneutical approach to its vague meaning. According to this principle, which was established in the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht and nowadays is contained within the proposed new Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union may only act and make laws where member states agree that the action of individual countries is insufficient. In other words, this Principle is extremely important because it underlies everything the European Union does in areas where it does not have the right of exclusive competence. This also means that the Community must not undertake or regulate what can be managed or regulated more efficiently at national or regional levels. This is not only one of the central principles in the EU context, but a principle inherent in any construction of a federal type, and must be exercised in a spirit of cooperation between the various levels of power.

Notwithstanding the brief duration of my research visit, from July to August 2016, it was very productive since I was able to write an article to be published in 2017.

I should also like to say how pleased I am to have had the opportunity to meet colleagues from other countries and exchange views and knowledge on Comparative Law. The academic environment at the IECL was perfect to develop my research successfully, therefore I would like to finish by thanking Prof. John Cartwright for his support, and for giving me the opportunity to visit the Institute, and Jenny Dix for her generous availability at any time and professionalism in responding to my queries.

Professor Amalia Diurni, University of Rome Tor Vergata

The initial idea to come to Oxford for my research project was to focus on the "History and current issues of English and Scottish Law in a comparative prospective" as I was preparing a new edition of my European Comparative Law Textbook.

Facing a new editorial challenge, as soon as I joined the Institute I realised the potential of developing the original project towards new topics such as the study of the Financial Collateral Arrangements from a comparative prospective. Security interests are a branch of financial law concerning the creation and transfer of financial assets. Each legal system underpinning the functioning of financial markets across the globe is different, even though substantial progress has been made to harmonize the various jurisdictions. In particular the 2002 EU Directive on financial collateral arrangements had the objective to introduce common standards across Europe and reduce the gap with the US to increase market efficiency and stability. The aim of my research was to understand if these objectives have been achieved. As a result, during my stay I focused on the English and Scottish rules on this subject compared to some other European legal systems (Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal). Since Europe compares with its major law making competitors such as the US, and with the soft law products (ISDA's and European Master Agreements, DCFR, International Conventions etc.) my study aimed at providing a comparative assessment of the interaction between the various components and jurisdictions in a dynamic perspective.

The environment here in Oxford was ideal for my research objectives: I cannot thank enough John Cartwright, Jenny Dix and all my colleagues at the Institute for their enthusiasm and support. Moreover, the volume of documentation available on-line is so vast and comprehensive to largely offset the inconvenience caused by the refurbishment of the Bodleian Law Library.

I have also had the extraordinary opportunity to witness the historic event of the EU referendum from inside. The shocking decision of the UK to leave the EU tells us how important peace, integration and joint responsibility are. These objectives can only be achieved through relentless commitment, in particular from those who are in charge of culture and education as we are.

I leave with sorrow my colleagues and many new friends. I sincerely hope there will be another opportunity to come back to the Institute and perhaps see its new location in 2017.

Professor Vanessa Mak, Tilburg University

My research visit to the Oxford Institute of European and Comparative Law in May-June 2016 was brief, but fruitful. My main aim was to work on a few chapters that will become part of a monograph on lawmaking in European private law from a legal pluralist perspective. The research project focuses on mechanisms for ‘managing pluralism’ in European private law. It explores ways in which norms developed at different levels of regulation—national law, EU law and transnational private law—can be coordinated within the broader social and market framework of the EU. Where existing strategies for lawmaking, in particular top-down harmonization by the EU, seem to have reached their limits, new mechanisms emerge or can be conceived. The project explores the normative basis and the regulatory design of such new mechanisms, focusing in particular on private or hybrid forms of regulation, such as standardization in contract law, and the development of guidelines of regulation that might benefit lawmaking actors (legislators, but sometimes also courts or tribunals).

I used the time in Oxford to discuss research ideas with scholars based at several of the Oxford colleges, who kindly hosted me. Their company was very engaging and our discussions contributed much to developing my research. I also had the chance to attend one or two lectures by prominent visiting scholars.

Without overstating it, the research environment provided by the IECL is amongst the best in the world. The resources of the university, for my research primarily available through the Bodleian Law Library, are comprehensive and easily accessible. Furthermore, the workspace provided by the Institute during my stay—even if it was at a different location due to refurbishments—was excellent and the staff extremely helpful and welcoming. Having been at Oxford before, it is always a pleasure to come back and I hope to have the opportunity to do so in the future, not least to see the Institute at its new location in the St Cross Building.

Dr Laura Carlson, Stockholm University

My visit at the Institute the spring of 2016 was of a dual nature: to participate in an Erasmus plus teacher mobility program and also to research. The Erasmus teacher exchange between the Law Faculty at Oxford University and the Department of Law at Stockholm University has entailed that a fellow at the Institute, Andreas von Goldbeck, was co-course director of Comparative Law in Stockholm in the fall of 2015. Now in the spring of 2016, I had the opportunity to participate as a teacher in the international labour law course, doctoral seminars and a moot court. The establishment of the teacher exchange is seen as a further strengthening of the ties between the Department of Law at Stockholm University and the Institute. The research I did while at the Institute was for an ongoing project, Grappling with Democracy: Trade Unions, Representation and the Law, which I began as a research fellow at the Institute the year prior. The specific topic, labour union members’ rights to concretely influence the actions of the labour unions internally, is being examined from a comparative perspective of Sweden, the US, and the UK. The stay at the Institute afforded me the opportunity to further research the UK labour law model.

Dr Laura Alascio, University of Pompeu Fabra

One of my lines of research addresses the issue of Inheritance Contracts in Catalan and Spanish Law, and their role as an alternative to wills when organising one’s succession. Indeed, in an inheritance contract, the future decedent and the future heir agree so as to create a right in favour of the latter to the future estate of the former. The basic consequence is that the future decedent is prevented from appointing a new heir through a will and, in turn, the future heir is barred from disclaiming the inheritance. The resort to this type of contract poses many issues and, in particular the reasons that drive a person to relinquish their freedom to make a will. Traditionally it is understood that the reason underlying this decision was to urge the future heir to do something in particular (namely, take care of a member of the family or tend the family business) knowing that, in doing so, he would be rewarded in the future with the bequeathing of the estate. Developing this line of research, during my stay at the Institute, I delved into the comparative analysis of the topic and consider its implications by analysing deeper how common-law systems address this issue, and, at an European level, how do substantive regulations of comparative legal systems interact with the Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. The results of the research will be shortly published in the forthcoming book Los pactos sucesorios en el Derecho civil catalán, by Editorial Atelier.

Dr George Gerapetritis, University of Athens

The research project I worked on during my stay at the Institute was about new economic constitutionalism. It focused on the institutional mutation of constitutionalism following the major economic crisis in the Eurozone and globally. The idea is that there has been a historical evolution from constitutionalism to economic constitutionalism (constitution abstaining from setting constraints on the economy) and to new economic constitutionalism (constitution positively giving priority to the economic provisions over structural and human rights provisions). New economic constitutionalism was triggered by institutional default, caused due to over-reliance on market principles and mutual sincere cooperation among the European Union institutions and to over-reliance on the dialectic between European solidarity and national responsibilities. The implications stemming thereof are both instrumental upon drafting and reading of the Constitution and institutional upon governance. Accordingly, it is suggested that fresh vehicles relating to the structure of government, the decision-making process and in the formation of the policy agendas need to be set in place to address the challenges of new economic constitutionalism, for the conventional instruments of constitutionalism (legitimacy, accountability, separation of powers, rule of law) do not suffice. The above theme was presented in a series of lectures and seminars at the University of Oxford, the University of London and the Queen’s University Belfast. It will be published as a book in 2017.

Dr John Hopkins, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

During the period October-December 2015 I was fortunate enough to be a Canterbury Fellow at the Institute of European and Comparative Law at the University of Oxford. During this time I undertook work on a number of projects including work for a series of the entries for the forthcoming Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law. The Fellowship also allowed me to develop connections with a number of established and world leading scholars, many of whom hosted me in their Colleges. I am extremely grateful for their assistance and hospitality. I was a regular attendee at both the International Law and Comparative/European Law seminar series and in some cases developed (and re-kindled) contacts with a number of globally recognised scholars and practitioners from outside Oxford. Overall I found the experience extremely fruitful both academically and personally. The facilities were second to none and the assistance provided by the Institute and University staff was exemplary. The Institute of European and Comparative Law could not have been more helpful in providing both a friendly place to work and an intellectually stimulating environment. I hope that the contacts developed there (from as far away as Chile and Sweden) will provide the basis for further collaborations in the future.