European Law Institute

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European Law Institute
Location Schottenring 16, Top 175, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Established June 2011
President Christiane Wendehorst
Vice president Sjef van Erp
Members around 1.500 individual members and over 100 Institutional Observers

The European Law Institute (ELI) is an independent non-profit organisation established to initiate, conduct and facilitate research, make recommendations and provide practical guidance in the field of European legal development with a goal of enhancing the European legal integration. The idea of an ELI was inspired by the activities of the American Law Institute (ALI), founded in 1923 and headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Similar to the ALI, the ELI has individual members (Fellows) and Individual and Institutional Observers. Members of ELI include law professors, attorneys, judges and other professionals in the legal industry.

Christiane Wendehorst, Professor of civil law at the University of Vienna, was elected as President of the ELI in September 2017, succeeding Diana Wallis, former Vice-President of the European Parliament.

History and Founding of the Institute[edit]

In Europe, the idea to found a European Law Institute had been discussed for more than a decade. Two main initiatives were launched: In October 2008, a group of scholars from leading European law schools and research institutes convened in Brussels to discuss the project. Follow-up meetings took place in Prague, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Frankfurt. In March 2010, the Association for a European Law Institute (ELIA) was founded, which served to initiate and coordinate a Europe-wide debate. By 2011, the ELIA had around 250 members, academics from more than 100 European law faculties as well as judges, many of them from Member States' supreme courts, and legal professionals.

An independent initiative towards the foundation of a European Law Institute was taken by the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. Four colleagues from the EUI launched a conference in April 2010, inviting many leading figures from European institutions and networks to discuss the idea.

Due to a great deal of overlap between the ELIA and the EUI initiatives, they came to be seen as possibly competing, prompting an inquiry into whether the two initiatives can be brought together and whether common guidelines can be developed for the establishment of a European Law Institute. A meeting in that regard was held on the premises of the Hamburg Max Planck Institute on 22 and 23 June 2010. Following the Hamburg meeting, a joint project group was formed by the ELIA and EUI initiatives and further networks and stakeholder organisations. A first meeting of this joint project group and of observers from the European Commission was held in Vienna on 23 and 24 November 2010 on the premises of the Austrian Supreme Court.

The resulting Vienna Memorandum provided a roadmap for the establishment of the European Law Institute.

Following an agreement between 52 founding members made in Athens on 16 April 2011, the ELI was recognised as an International Non-Profit Association (AISBL/IVZW/IVoG) under Belgian law by Royal Decree of 1 June 2011 and presented to the public in Paris on the same day.

On 31 May 2011, former Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union Sir Francis Jacobs was elected as the first President of the ELI.

The Institute's Secretariat is located at Schottenring 16/175, 1010 in Vienna, Austria and is hosted by the University of Vienna. The Secretariat was inaugurated in a ceremony on 17 November 2011. The keynote speech was given by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

ELI's Work[edit]

Among ELI’s core tasks are:

  • to evaluate and stimulate the development of EU law, legal policy, and practice, and in particular make proposals for the further development of the acquis and for the enhancement of EU law implementation by the Member States;
  • to identify and analyse legal developments in areas within the competence of Member States which are relevant at the EU level;
  • to study EU approaches regarding international law and enhance the role EU law could play globally, for instance in drafting international instruments or model rules;
  • to conduct and facilitate pan-European research, in particular to draft, evaluate or improve principles and rules which are common to the European legal systems; and
  • to provide a forum, for discussion and cooperation, of jurists irrespective of their vocation or occupation, inter alia academics, judges, lawyers and other legal professionals, who take an active interest in European legal development and together represent a broad range of legal traditions.

To accomplish its tasks, ELI operates on its own initiative. It is also, however, available for consultation by institutions involved in the development of law on a European, international or national level.


Since September 2017, Christiane Wendehorst has been heading the Institute as its President, succeeding Diana Wallis, former Vice-President of the European Parliament, in that role. The highest body of the Institute is the General Assembly which elects from among its Fellows the main governing body: the Council. The Council [1] is made up of 60 elected individuals representing different legal traditions, professions and disciplines, as well as of up to 10 ex-officio members from selected institutions. Many prominent figures in the European legal arena form this body, including Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales John Thomas, Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd. The Council in turn elects from amongst its members an Executive Committee,[2] the Association's administrative body. It delegates many of its tasks and powers to its standing committees which deal with matters such as projects, membership and international relations. Furthermore, there is a Senate[3] in place to provide advice, which appoints from among its members an Arbitral Tribunal,[4] tasked with settling any disputes within the organisation. The Speaker of the ELI Senate is Reinhard Zimmermann.

Hubs and Special Interest Groups (SIGs)[edit]

ELI Hubs and SIGs serve as a two-way communication channel between the ELI and its members. They were established for members to facilitate discussion, share and monitor legal developments, and stimulate project proposals. Whereas Hubs are country specific groups, and thus allow ELI members to meet closer to home and communicate in their native language, SIGs are topic specific. The ELI is committed to the principle of collaborative working and strongly encourages Hub and SIG activities.

At the present time, 11 ELI hubs have been created, namely the Austrian Hub, Croatian Hub, French Hub, German Hub, Hungarian Hub, Irish Hub, Italian Hub, Polish Hub, Slovenian Hub, Spanish Hub and United Kingdom Hub. The following nine areas have attracted the most interest, and therefore the Executive Committee has decided to establish these SIGs:

  • Administrative Law
  • Business and Financial Law
  • Competition Law
  • Digital Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Family and Succession Law
  • Fundamental Rights Law
  • Global Private Law
  • Intellectual Property Law[5]


Projects carried out under the auspices of the ELI must be at the service of the European citizen by improving the law or facilitating its application; aim at results that potentially have immediate practical impact; be effectuated through collaboration between jurists from academia and from legal practice; and take a genuinely pan-European perspective as well as consider the achievements of the various legal cultures. An overview on current and completed projects can be found on the ELI’s webpage.

ELI's projects can take two forms:

  • ELI Instruments

Medium- to long-term projects, the added value of which is to provide well-founded solutions that find the support of the European legal community. The ELI has published the following Instruments:

  • Instrument on Rescue of Business in Insolvency Law[6]
  • Draft Legislative Proposals for the prevention and resolution of conflicts of jurisdiction in criminal matters in the European Union[7]

  • ELI Statements

Short-term reactions to current developments, the added value of which is to coordinate, and so far as possible to reconcile, the views taken by various European constituencies. So far the ELI has published the following Statements:

  • Statement on the Principled Relationship of Formal and Informal Justice through the Courts and Alternative Dispute Resolution (with the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, ENCJ)[8]
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers and Irregular Migrants and the Rule of Law: Checklists and European Standards[9]
  • Statement on From CESL to the Digital Single Market[10]
  • Statement on Collective Redress and Competition Damages Claims[11]
  • Statement on the Proposal for a Regulation on a Common European Sales Law[12]
  • Statement on Case overload at the European court of Human Rights[13]


There are currently âround 1.500 individual members and 100 Institutional Observers of the European Law Institute, representing all branches of law and legal professions.[14] Membership is subject to approval by the ELI Council and must be supported by at least two existing ELI Members acting as referees or, exceptionally, on the invitation of the ELI Council.[15]

The Institute has three categories of members:

  • Fellows are natural persons and must actively engage, by their professional, vocational or scholarly activities, in European legal development. They must undertake to speak, vote and participate in activities carried out within the framework of the Association on the basis of their own personal and professional convictions without regard to the interests of particular stakeholders.
  • Individual Observers are natural persons who take an active interest in European legal development but cannot undertake to speak and vote without regard to the interests of particular stakeholders.
  • Institutional Observers are legal entities, or natural persons representing organisations, institutions or networks, which are actively involved in European legal development.



  1. ^ ELI Council Accessed on 13 March 2014.
  2. ^ ELI Executive Committee Archived 2014-02-03 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed on 13 March 2014.
  3. ^ ELI Senate Accessed on 13 March 2014.
  4. ^ ELI Arbitral Tribunal Accessed on 13 March 2014.
  5. ^
  6. ^ (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^
  8. ^
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  14. ^ ELI Membership [1] Accessed on 12 March 2014.
  15. ^ "ELI Membership".