This article stems from on an international collaboration and the publication of a book investigating and identifying the existence of core principles of European expropriation law in 15 different countries. Despite a long tradition of expropriation, surprisingly little thought appears to have been paid to justifying expropriation. Grotius’ work still provides the theoretical underpinning by recognising society’s superior right or ‘a dominium eminens’ over individual property rights. Despite varying backgrounds across the surveyed European countries, there are some basic common European rules on expropriation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these include the need for expropriation to take place in the ‘public interest’ and the article notes the complexities caused by this requirement across jurisdictions.
The article argues that a recurring problem across Europe, historically and today, is the level of acceptable private party involvement in expropriation proceedings and suggests that this is an area which merits further attention. Additionally, the article notes the core requirement of judicial involvement in expropriation proceedings, both in hearings and sometimes in setting levels of appropriate compensation. The judicial role is an important safeguard in expropriation proceedings and has to be balanced against competing interests of legislative supremacy and constitutional limits. The right to financial compensation is another core feature of expropriation law across Europe. Whilst compensation is vital, the level at which it is awarded provides a valuable snapshot of the different societal approaches taken to property rights across Europe. The relative roles of experts and the judiciary in calculating compensation is also noted as being of interest. Additionally, the article argues that there are common challenges including, complex legislation, the varying impact of expropriation on owners, and the possible restitution of property no longer needed for expropriation purposes. The article concludes that there are core principles of European expropriation law, and that whilst these may seem unsurprising their continued existence across so many varied legal systems is an achievement in itself.
© 2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston