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Chalfen Memorial Lecture

Law-making in Brussels

6th November 2009

What is this event about?

The EU produces legislation on a wide range of issues, including criminal and civil law. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, more of these issues come under the co-decision procedure in which Parliament and Council are the Union's legislature. The process of developing Commission proposals, negotiating texts in Council groups and Coreper and accommodating Parliamentary amendments, all conducted in one or two languages by many people operating in a foreign language, leads finally to laws equally valid in 23 languages.

The EU's legal system can work only on the basis that it has terms of art with their own meaning, whether contained in the Treaties or in legislation. EU law also needs - and has - its own methods of interpretation and, of course, its own court as final arbiter.

National legislators are called upon to insert EU directives into national law and provide judges and the public with a text which respects the rules and constraints stemming from the EU origin of the norm, while finding its place in the national setting and language(s).

The "Brussels process" is a hybrid between traditional international negotiations between diplomats who sometimes resort to imprecision as a way to make progress and achieve consensus, and law-making by specialists who convert a policy decision into clear, often technical language which finds its place in the legal system with which lawyers, judges and (it is hoped) citizens are familiar. Questions of interpretation are resolved through formal and informal processes of law and administration, while the interplay between national courts and the European Court of Justice provides final legal clarity in many cases which reach that level.

If this is a fair analysis, does the Brussels law-making system work?


Stuart Chalfen was a lawyer and a scientist. He spent much of his working career in industry. He worked for many years with the Xerox Group. Whilst at Xerox, he held senior jobs in Canada and the United States, and became Rank Xerox Legal Director in 1982. Stuart joined BAT Industries in 1987 as Legal Director and General Counsel, from where he retired in June 2000.

Stuart had a passion for the law and, both at Xerox and BAT, set up and managed highly respected teams of lawyers in high performing functions. Stuart was a role model to many lawyers through his intellect, legal achievements and strong management skills, as well as his priority for his family. To many, he was also a mentor, passionate about people development and education, and always available to provide valuable support and encouragement to more junior lawyers. He is remembered as an honourable practitioner of the law and optimistic, with a great sense of humour.

The Chalfen Memorial Lecture series, of which this forms the last in the series, was established by BAT to honour the memory of Stuart Chalfen.


We thank his wife, Frances, and their family for their continuing support.


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