Apart from the three methods to combat undue delay and costs mentioned above, a multitude of other approaches to curb undue delay and costs exist in different national legal systems. An interesting example is the Austrian Fristsetzungsantrag or ‘application to set a time-limit’. By way of this application the parties may file a request with a higher court to order the lower court to perform a requested procedural act within a certain time-limit. The application is, however, rarely used, most likely because it may give rise to further delay (Oberhammer, 2004, 230). Another example is the use of IT technologies. In some countries (for example, Austria and Germany) electronic communication is used at a large scale, whereas other countries (for example, The Netherlands) are behind in this respect.
Some authors are extremely sceptical as regards the effectiveness of reform in civil procedure in order to address problems in civil litigation (Leubsdorf, 1999). Indeed, history shows us that the effects of reform projects were often short-lived (Van Rhee, 2004). It is therefore still an open question whether, for example, the new English Civil Procedure Rules 1998 will have a lasting impact. First signs are, however, positive.
4. Harmonisation of civil procedural law In many fields of law efforts are made to reduce the differences between the existing national legal systems (on fundamental similarities in and differences among procedural systems, see Hazard, Taruffo, Stürner & Gidi, 2001, 772ff). This is also true in the area of procedural law even though harmonisation of procedural law may pose specific difficulties due to the fact that it is closely related to court organisation: a change in procedural rules may necessitate changes in court organisation and this often turns out to be an insurmountable problem, if only for political reasons. This is very clear where the harmonisation of the rules on recourse against judgements is at stake (on ‘harmonisation’ and the related concept of ‘approximation’, see Hazard, Taruffo, Stürner & Gidi, 2001, 769-772).
Some authors claim that harmonisation of procedural law may have negative consequences, for example if it means that a country with an efficient system will have to change its rules in order to comply with a common standard that is less efficient (Lindblom, 1997). Others are of the opinion that harmonisation of procedural law should be pursued due to its benefits. It could, for example, simplify transnational proceedings and cut transaction costs. Harmonisation may also safeguard preceding substantive law harmonisation (Kerameus, 1998; Schwartze, 2000).
The authors who are in favour of harmonisation also claim that the harmonisation of civil procedure is highly feasible. In their view one reason for this is that the unification of procedural law may have a fragmentary character: ‘[…] specific procedures can be unified or only a partial degree of unification can be carried out. This is more difficult in substantive law, where there is a greater tendency towards overall standardisation: the law of contracts and the law of bankruptcy, for instance, form a coherent whole, so that it is difficult to put forward partial reforms’ (Storme, 1994, 54).
In the context of the European Union Article 65 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (cf. Articles III-158 and III-170 of the European Convention), provides a legal basis for the harmonisation of civil procedural law, at least as regards civil matters having cross- border implications and in so far as necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market (Drappatz, 2002). Although the field of operation of Article 65 ECT is still unclear (Hess, 2002, 13-14), it is not unlikely, that in the future Article 65 ECT or its successors will also be of significance for cases which are currently qualified as purely national (especially Article 65 sub