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Covid-19 for UIHJ means a lot of virtual meetings. Last week UIHJ participated in the Annual Conference of the European Law Institute. It meant over 30 hours of virtual meetings, webinars, speeches et cetera.

President Christiane Wendehorst in the opening speech welcomed all participants to the conference. She hopes for a return to physical meetings very soon, yet she also noted that there are certain advantages by online communication: it enables more frequent meetings and swift action.

The participants were welcomed by the Austrian Minister for Justice Alma Zadić. She focused on the (legal) challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The opening ceremony continued with the keynote speech of the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders. His speech focused on the rule of law. The Commissioner underlined the importance of the principles of the rule of law: “What makes the rule of law so important is that it guarantees the respect of all our values, including democracy and fundamental rights. My conviction is firm; there can be no compromise when it comes to defending all common values.” After the keynote speech, the Commissioner continued with a discussion in the form of a Q&A session on the digitalization of justice. On the question of UIHJ president Marc Schmitz, Mr. Reynders explained that at this moment the European Commission does not intend to draft European legislation that would ease the enforcement of digital assets, such as bitcoins.

The lecture of Professor Christian von Bar, on ‘Contract Law and Human Dignity’, was attended by 180 persons. In this second Ole Lando Memorial Lecture, he focused on the aspects of contract law that are directly affected by fundamental and human rights law and pointed out situations in which agreements cannot be held up as binding contracts, usually for constitutional reasons.

Day 1 and 2 were focusing on the Council meetings. As a founding member of ELI, UIHJ is an institutional observer of the ELI Council.

Day 3 and 4 several webinars were organized that are directly linked with the projects that are currently running within ELI. Topics related to Artificial Intelligence and Public Administration (on the development of assessments and public administration for digital democracy), admissibility of criminal evidence in the digital age; ALI-ELI principles for a data economy; European model rules of civil procedure; rescue of business in insolvency law.

UIHJ is active in several projects that are relevant for our profession. The webinar Blockchain Technology and Smart Contracts was moderated by professor Sjef van Erp, the Project Chair. Reporters Juliette Sénéchal and Martin Hanzl as well as external experts Stephan Karpischek and Dirk Staudenmayer were invited as speakers. Speakers addressed, among other things, the issue of smart contracts in the data economy, the German and French perspectives on blockchain and smart contracts as well as legal and regulatory challenges in practice.

The webinar can be seen back through the following YouTube link:


The webinar Access to digital assets was chaired by Jos Uitdehaag, secretary of UIHJ and co-reporter of this project (together with professor Sjef van Erp who also participated as a speaker to this webinar). The other speakers were Phoebus Athanassiou (lead legal counsel of the European Central Bank), Yannick Meneceur (French magistrate seconded to the Council of Europe) and Sir Geoffrey Vos (appointed Chancellor of the High Court of England). This project especially is in the interest of UIHJ since the importance of digital assets is on the rise. Digital assets cover a wide range of assets (e.g. software and online bank accounts but also cryptocurrencies). The ELI project hopes to facilitate the position of those entitled to access to digital assets, including enforcement agents. The project aims to draft principles in order to harmonize the laws of the various States.

The webinar can be seen back through the following YouTube link: