A conference on ‘General principles of law’ was held in glorious late summer weather in Oxford on September 25th and 26th on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Institute of European and Comparative Law. The event was a celebration of twenty years of remarkable success and even if it was tinged with regret at the departure of the Director, Stefan Vogenauer, who leaves us for the Max-Planck Institute in Frankfurt, it was also a fine opportunity for everyone to thank Stefan for his mighty efforts to consolidate and advance the status of the Institute as a loud and important expression of the Law Faculty's commitment to the role it plays within the family of European Law Schools which supplements its role in the common law world.
The celebratory tone of the conference was supported also by serious academic endeavour. ‘General principles of law’ are one of the most visible areas of intersection between EU law and comparative law: as long as they are understood as ‘the general principles common to the laws of the Member States’ (according to Article 340(2) TFEU) their fleshing out requires careful comparative preparatory work. True, more often than not, the general principles of EU law were not developed on the basis of thorough and textbook style analysis. This does not make it less interesting to look at the interaction of EU law and comparative law in this particular field. Quite the reverse, we discovered at our September conference. Those working together in elaborating general principles of EU law tend to be responsive to input from national laws, and the laws of the Member States have no choice but to be responsive to the general principles developed at EU level. We enjoyed a rich and varied inquiry into this particular interaction from the perspectives of EU law and comparative law alike, spanning both public and private law, and looking too at the very legitimacy of the judicial role in the discovery of these 'gap-filling' principles. Leading scholars and practitioners spoke: most of all the event brought together current and former members, visitors and friends of the Institute, as well as those who might belong to one of these categories in the future.