What is the matter with the CCBE?

As the proposed directive on Rights of Establishment trundles through various European channels, it transpires that the CCBE has only now sent a letter of support to the Council of Ministers.

The letter, written by President Ramon Mullerat, said that the directive was "closely akin" to the position of the majority of the CCBE's delegations. While such support should have been given a long time ago, it comes alongside news that the French have still not stopped their crusade to have the directive thrown out.

The latest French move is the announcement that the French Government will insist on unanimity in the final vote. Whether this insistence will carry the day or not is subject to debate. Nonetheless, the fact that 20 years of discussion has passed without agreement being reached is hardly a credit to the CCBE. More shocking still is the French duplicity in springing this on the CCBE when the organisation has formally supported the directive. The whole affair puts a question mark over the utility of the CCBE and makes us wonder how influential it can ever be.

If its performance on the establishment directive is any indication of how it performs in the European field, we can only wonder what will happen on the world stage when the discussion of legal professional services comes up at the next World Trade Organisation meeting.

The CCBE certainly did not score well when legal services was an issue on the GATT table – the Americans poured scorn on the CCBE contribution to that debate. Nor did CCBE unity shine through at the American Bar Association meeting in Florida in August, when all the speakers had decidedly different agendas.

Those associated with the CCBE will doubtless say the group performs a useful function in at least putting issues on the agenda. But discussing problems is one thing – solving them is quite another.