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EU scraps bid for cross-border defamation rules

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BRUSSELS, Feb 22 (Reuters) The European Union will scrap its three-year long attempt to adopt common media defamation rules in cross-border cases, the EU Presidency said.

The European Commission suggested this move last week, arguing media defamation was only one article blocking a whole proposal aimed at resolving cross-border cases of civil liability by determining which national law to apply.

''Media defamation is out,'' said a senior diplomat of the EU Presidency yesterday, after a meeting where the 25 EU justice ministers were once more very divided on the issue.

Austrian justice minister Karin Gastinger, who chaired the meeting, said ministers were very close to a solution on all the other aspects of the proposal, and continuing to talk on media defamation would mean a very long delay.

''In other areas such as protection of consumers or unfair competition, this regulation ... is an added value we cannot renounce,'' European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said.

At present no common rules apply when more than one country is involved, meaning plaintiffs in media defamation cases often seek to apply the national legislation they believe will offer them the greatest chance of success.

Jurisdictions based on English law are often seen as more stringent on defamation and typically offer greater damages.

Polish justice minister Andrzej Grzelak, one of the six ministers to disagree with the EU executive on deleting media defamation from the scope of the text, complained that legal uncertainty will remain.

The proposal covers road accidents, accidents caused by defective products, unfair commercial practices, environmental damage, and infringement of intellectual property rights.

In general, the principle will be to apply the legislation of the country where the damage occurred, unless both parties agreed to another legislation.

REUTERS PDS RAI0543

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