The Reform of Contract in France: Projects and Perspectives – Foggia, 9-10 October 2009

Authors: Chiara Perfumi


The University of Foggia (Università degli Studi di Foggia – Facoltà di Giurisprudenza) in collaboration with the PhD program in legal general theory hosted, from 9th to 10th June 2009, the Bilateral Conference “The Reform of Contract in France: Projects and Perspectives”.

In reaction to the European debate on the harmonisation of contract law and in attempting to strengthen the prestige of the Civil Code, to be considered as a possible model, French scholars are intensively working on the reform of Title III of Book III on “Obligations”. From 2006 until now, three main projects have been submitted for public debate. However, now, it has been left to the Ministry of Justice to elaborate the most recent version and give effect to the reforms. The different proposals aim to offer alternative rules to the existing regime, taking, most of all, into consideration the major innovations enhanced by the Cour de Cassation’s case law and the implementation of EU legislation, bearing in mind the solutions adopted in the most important comparative studies concerning the harmonisation of European contract.

This paper gives a general summary of the main issues raised on the origins, the evolutions and the tools of this historical reform, by enriching the dialogue between Italian and French eminent scholars.

Moving from a presentation of the general principles that have been declared as principes directeurs of contract law, the conference discussion firstly touched upon the major concern regarding the actual role of the cause and its perspectives. Alongside this, t was illustrated that the different projects present mitigated solutions concerning the introduction of the imprévision, traditionally rejected by courts and the legislator, and seem to take into account, in some circumstances, the imbalance of the contract. Finally, the evolution of the impact of reforms on the external effects of contract, having regard to other contracts such as “interdependent contracts” and to effects on third parties, was discussed. As a consequence, the main doubt raised was whether or not it can be taken that the reforms are simply trying to “tout changer pour que rien ne bouge”…

Therefore, in closing the working sessions, Prof. Troiano argued that the reform movement witnessed in France corresponds to a broader apprehension at the European level on the process of harmonisation of contract law. Regarding this phenomenon, with some scepticism, the organiser of the Conference wondered if, ultimately, a reform of existing contract law must really be seen as an impelling requirement at the national and European level, in view of the concrete expectations of those who are actually addressed by these set rules.