Social Justice and Access Justice in Private Law

EUI Working Paper LAW No. 2011/02

44 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2011

See all articles by Hans‐W. Micklitz

Hans‐W. Micklitz

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

Date Written: January 2011


During the C20th, the Member States of the European Union developed their own models of social justice in private law. Each model is inherently linked to national culture and tradition. However, all models have a common thread, which is the use of the law by the (social welfare) state as a means to protect the weaker party against the stronger party. Since the adoption of the Single European Act in 1986, the European Union has assumed a social outlook which has gradually developed over time eventually taking shape in the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Since the adoption of the SEA, more particularly the White Paper on the Completion of the Internal Market,[1] the European Union adopted a huge set of secondary law means which influence either directly (consumer, labour, anti-discrimination and business law directives) or indirectly (directives meant to liberalise markets, e.g. telecommunication, postal services, energy - electricity and gas, transport, health care) private law matters. This new regulatory private law is governed by a different philosophy, one which cannot be brought into line with the understanding of social justice as enshrined in labour or later the consumer movement and one which is challenging national models of social justice in private law. I call the EU model of justice access justice/Zugangsgerechtigkeit (justice through access, not access to justice), i.e. that it is for the European Union to grant access justice to those who are excluded from the market or to those who face difficulties in making use of the market freedoms. European private law rules have to make sure that the weaker parties have and maintain access to the market - and to the European society insofar as this exists.

Keywords: Social justice, welfare state, private law, European integration, internal market, Zugangsgerechtigkeit, access justice

Suggested Citation

Micklitz, Hans-W., Social Justice and Access Justice in Private Law (January 2011). EUI Working Paper LAW No. 2011/02, Available at SSRN: or

Hans-W. Micklitz (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Boccaccio 121 (Villa Schifanoia)
I-50122 Firenze

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