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European Commission’s Experts’ Group Update
In Quest of a Harmonisation: Tilting at Windmills?
Report by Myriam Mailly (Technical Officer) and Paul Omar (Technical Research Coordinator)

After finishing work on the Preventive Restructuring Directive (PRD) in 2019, the European Commission’s Experts’ Group in Restructuring and Insolvency (ECEG) resumed its work after a long hiatus in April 2021. This time, it is looking at new proposals for possible greater convergence in substantive insolvency law that have been floated in the wake of an outline impact assessment (December 2020) and a subsequent public consultation (open till April 2021).

Prompted by the Capital Markets Union (CMU) Action Plan and realisation of the internal market significance of insolvency law fragmentation arising from studies during the PRD development phase, the difference in insolvency outcomes is seen as a strong factor in investment decisions and a barrier to cross-border investments. As such, it has been felt necessary to examine whether further convergence or harmonisation can be attempted. A further study and impact assessment will be commissioned to confirm these findings as work progresses.

The role of the ECEG is to look at sensitive core aspects of insolvency law (often intertwined with other key aspects of domestic law) and to determine what might be possible for harmonisation. A “rich bouquet” of different issues has already been identified as possible targets during impact assessment, including some substantive topics, some procedural issues and some capacity building elements (including developing court and IOH capacity). In terms of a substantive approach, the ECEG is to work on outlining a variety of possible outcomes, ranging from the extent of harmonisation desired to the type of text that might embody the findings of the group.

Over the course of 2021, the plan is for the ECEG to meet 7 times with the ultimate endpoint scheduled for 2022 Q2. The ECEG is working via sub-groups (clusters) tasked with formulating recommendations on procedural issues, ranking of claims, asset-tracing, avoidance actions, directors’ liability, IOH qualifications and judicial training. The 3 meetings that have already occurred (12 April, 10 May and 22 June) have produced recommendations that are currently being examined by the European Commission.
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