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Agreement has been struck on the final shape of the long-discussed Rome II regulation, which establishes guidelines on choosing court jurisdictions for non-contractual disputes within the EU.
The EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament representatives met in a conciliation committee and agreed the legislation last Tuesday (15 May), which should come into force on 1 January 2009.
EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini branded the current system "unacceptable" and said: "The settlement of a dispute varies considerably depending on which court it's referred to."
The new law lays down rules for determining the jurisdiction that applies in a non-contractual civil dispute involving more than one member state, such as liability for road accidents, defective products or environmental pollution.
It establishes a general rule that the law of the country in which the damage occurs will apply, unless both parties live in, or operate from, another country, in which case its laws and courts will determine the case. There are also specific rules for common torts, such as product liability and environmental damage.