Books Developments in PIL Scholarship

Wilke’s Conceptual Analysis of European Private International Law

Felix M. Wilke has published a well-researched, innovative and thought-provoking book titled A Conceptual Analysis of Private International Law (Intersentia, 2019). In it, he makes a strong plea for the establishment of a general notions, methodologies and principles for conflict of laws on the European level.

This book is much more than the repeated calls, mainly from Germany, for the development of “general principles” of EU PIL or a “Rome 0 Regulation“. It provides a sort of “anatomy” European Private International Law, laying bare its underlying structures.

Particularly intriguing is that Wilke is not merely looking at EU regulations. Instead, he adopts a comparative perspective, taking into account the domestic law of all EU Member States. Yes, you read that right, Malta – all Member States.

The result is a very useful overview of private international laws across the EU. Do not expect, however, detailed country reports. Wilke focuses on the functioning of the PIL system, in the sense required by functional comparative law. This functioning largely depends on concepts, such as renvoi, preliminary questions or overriding mandatory rules.

Wilke examines the operation of these concepts throughout Europe, crosscutting specialised EU regulations as well as national conflicts laws. In doing so, he distills the gist of EU Private International Law and brings much needed clarity to often squiggly debates.

Praise for the new book is also provided by Ralf Michaels‘ foreword. Here is an excerpt:

This is a thoroughly researched work that is both comparative-empirical and prescriptive in nature, a study that both surveys existing law and makes proposals on the basis of its findings. The comparison is more doctrinal than functional in nature, which seems adequate for its topic of a conceptual analysis: Wilke is interested in establishing techniques, not resolving concrete cases, so a functional approach would not have been of much use to him. He analyses not just the existing EU instruments for what they reveal regarding general issues; in addition, his study relies on a comparison of the existing domestic private international law systems, both codified and uncodified, in all EU member states. Wilke thus departs from his earlier view that only a few domestic models exist – he finds, in fact, that general issues are more thoroughly discussed and regulated in domestic legislation than in European law, and therefore finds the existing material most helpful for European concepts. He even includes the United Kingdom – despite Brexit, and despite the differences one should expect between a common law approach in England and the civil law approaches of most other member states.

The result is an impressive survey of approaches concerning these questions; and Wilke’s results are surprising and interesting.

You heard it from the Max Planck Institute’s mouth: Highly recommended!