While the harmonisation of insolvency law in the European Union (EU) has been a top priority on the European institutions' agenda in the last decade, it is well known that this endeavour has been slow and has often met resistance from the Member States. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that top-down harmonisation of insolvency (i.e., introduced at EU level) has been temporarily halted. The urgency to control or mitigate the economically and financially destructive effects of the pandemic has, nevertheless, forced European governments to adopt domestic strategies and laws in the area of insolvency. Interestingly, however, such measures show that insolvency and restructuring law responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit largely uncoordinated, reflect a phenomenon of bottom-up harmonisation (i.e., introduced by Member States) indicating a convergence towards common approaches. This paper interrogates the insolvency law responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in six European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom). It uncovers the inadequacy of the EU's harmonisation language, and the limits of harmonisation strategies in insolvency and restructuring law. Finally, it promotes the formulation of a wider-encompassing definition of “legal harmonisation”.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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Ghio, E., Boon, G., Ehmke, D., Gant, J., Langkjaer, L. & Vaccari, E. 2021, 'Harmonising insolvency law in the EU: New thoughts on old ideas in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic', International Insolvency Review, 30(3), pp. 427-459. https://doi.org/10.1002/iir.1432

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Last updated: 04 October 2023
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