Exception to the Arbitration Exception: the 1896/2006 Regulation

It is hardly necessary to remind readers of this blog that the Brussels I Regulation contains an Arbitration Exception. It is pretty difficult not to have heard of, or read about, the West Tankers litigation lately.

Of course, the Arbitration Exception is not peculiar to the Brussels I Regulation. It is of general application in European civil procedure. All regulations in the field include the same exception. All? Well, not really. There is an exception to the exception.

Regulation 1896/2006 creating a European Order for Payment Procedure does not keep the Arbitration Exception. In the most usual way, article 2 of Regulation 1896/2006 defines the scope of the regulation, first by stating that it applies to civil and commercial matters, and then by excluding certain fields. As could be expected, social security or bankruptcy appear, but not arbitration (and not status and legal capacity of natural persons either, actually).

So it seems that Regulation 1896/2006 does apply to arbitration. Is it a new direction for European civil procedure? That prospect might make some people happy in Heidelberg, but we are not quite there yet. Regulation 861/2007 Establishing a European Small Claims Procedure (article 2) reincludes the Arbitration Exception.

This remarkable exception to the exception beggs two questions:

First, why? What are the reasons which led the drafters of the regulation to delete the Arbitration Exception? Are there any?

Second, what are the consequences? At first sight, not many. After all, if there is an arbitration agreement, courts will lack jurisdiction to do anything, or almost. And when courts will be petitioned to help constituting an arbitral tribunal, it will be hard to use the European Order for Payment Procedure in any meaningful way. But the issue of the availability of the European remedy in aid of the arbitral proceedings may well arise.

And if it does, a second issue will arise, as discussions in a recent conference at the Academy of European Law (ERA) on Cross-Border Enforcement in European Civil Procedure have shown. It will be necessary to coordinate with the Brussels I Regulation, which governs the jurisdiction of European courts granting European Orders for Payment.