Why do We Need <i>Grundstücke</i> (Land Units), and What are They? On the Difficulties of Divining a European Concept of ‘Thing’ in Property Law

  • Christian von Bar
Keywords: European private law, European property law, land, land units, Grundstücke, immeubles, comparative property law, ownership in land, real things and normative things


The article analyses one of the most fundamental but surprisingly difficult and contested concepts of European property law: the notion(s) of land, immeuble, immovable, and Grundstück. Grundstück and ownership in ‘land’ are reciprocal ideas, with each depending on the other. Grundstücke are constructs of the law and products of legal fantasy; they are not natural entities. To describe them as ‘corporeal’ things is as imprecise and incorrect as the notion of ‘immovables’ is. A piece of land (or land unit) is an item of property not because it is ‘corporeal’ but because the law creates its corpus. A Grundstück (equivalent to the Estonian maatükk) is a ‘normative thing’. Therefore, the paper discusses why the law needs Grundstücke (or their linguistic equivalents in other European languages), what is requires for bringing them into existence, and what space they encompass.