Belgium: What happened in 2018 and significant events in 2019
Reform of the Civil Code – Book III: A comprehensive reform of the Belgian Civil Code is underway, including a reform of the section on property law (future Book III). A first draft of Book III is already available and is expected to be approved by Parliament before the end of 2018 and come into force in 2021. Book III brings together the various scattered laws on rights in rem, modernises antiquated legal concepts and introduces the concept of volumes in property law, allowing for flexibility in complex real estate projects.
Reform of the Civil Code – Book V: In March 2018 the Council of Ministers gave the green light for the reform of the law of obligations. The reform aims to (i) codify existing concepts developed by the case law and the legal authors, (ii) restructure the various regimes (sources, contracts, obligations), (iii) introduce new concepts such as hardship theory, anticipatory breach, price reduction as sanction for a (quantitative) partial execution of a contract and also at (iv) increase the creditor’s power to manage a contract by only requiring a unilateral written notification to the debtor in order to declare the contract null, to replace the debtor or to terminate the contract.
Reform of the Civil Code – Book VIII: Book 8 of the new Civil Code, which was approved by the government on 25 October 2018, aspires to adapt the Belgian rules on evidence to the needs of litigants in the 21st century. The reform aims at: (i) providing for a uniform and contemporary definition of crucial concepts (such as signature and writing); (ii) codifying existing principles developed by case law and legal scholarship (such as the duty to collaborate in the administration of evidence); (iii) relaxing the evidentiary formalism (e.g. by elevating the threshold above which documentary evidence is required from EUR 375 to EUR 3,500); and (iv) introducing some new techniques (such as a reversal of the burden of proof in exceptional circumstances).
New alternative dispute resolution mechanism: The Law of 18 July 2018 introduced a new “part 8” on Collaborative Law in the Judicial Code, which will enter into force on 1 January 2019. Collaborative law is defined under the new article 1738 of the Judicial Code. In the framework of a collaborative law process, lawyers have a limited mandate. If they fail to reach an amicable agreement, neither them nor their colleagues of the same firm can further intervene in the matter.