First Issue of 2010’s ERA Forum


The first issue of ERA Forum for 2010 was released recently. It includes several articles dealing with various aspects of European private law, either in English, German or French.

Some discuss more specifically topics of private international law. Here is the relevant part of the editorial of the journal by Leyre Maiso Fontecha:

 1 European civil procedure

The Brussels I Regulation lays down rules governing the jurisdiction of courts and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters in the Member States of the European Union. It supersedes the Brussels Convention of 1968, which was applicable between the Member States before the Regulation entered into force in 2002. The Brussels I Regulation is currently under review by the European Commission. Among the issues raised are those concerning the treatment of choice of court agreements. By an exclusive choice of court agreement, the parties designate which court will decide disputes in connection with a particular legal relationship, to the exclusion of the jurisdiction of any other courts. Two of the articles illustrate current issues dealing with choice of court agreements.

The first one concerns the admissibility of damages in case of breach of a choice of court agreement. Gilles Cuniberti and Marta Requejo explain how, in the last decade, English and Spanish Courts have awarded damages in case of a breach of this clause. Until recently, the most efficient remedy was to seek an antisuit injunction in England, an order restraining a party from commencing or continuing proceedings in a foreign jurisdiction. This was however considered incompatible with European Union law in several cases decided by the European Court of Justice. The European Commission has nevertheless suggested in the Green Paper on the review of the Brussels I Regulation that the efficiency of jurisdiction agreements could be strengthened by granting damages for breach of such agreements.

The second article by Marta Pertegás presents the Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreement. This instrument, not yet in force, establishes uniform rules on jurisdiction and on recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in civil or commercial matters. The Convention would prevail over the Brussels I Regulation in cases where one party resides in an EU Member State and the other in a non-EU Member State that is a party to the Convention. The author argues that, in order to ensure that co-ordination is achieved between the Convention and the future revised European regulation, the Convention should serve as a source of inspiration as to possible amendments to the Brussels I Regulation with regard to choice of court clauses.

2 Private international law

The Rome Convention of 1980 on the law applicable to contractual obligations entered into force on 1 April 1991 to complement the Brussels Convention of 1968 by harmonising the rules of conflict of laws applicable to contracts. Like the Brussels Convention, the Rome Convention has been recently converted into a Community instrument. The Rome I Regulation,4 applicable since 17 December 2009, also modernises some of its rules. The article of Monika Pauknerová looks into the changes brought by the Rome I Regulation regarding mandatory rules and public policy. Mandatory rules are those which cannot be derogated by contract and which are declared binding by a legal system. In international cases, these can be “overriding” mandatory rules, which cannot be contracted out by the parties by choosing the law of another country. These must be differentiated from the public policy exception, which occurs when the application of a rule of the law of any country specified by the conflict rules may be refused if such application is manifestly incompatible with the fundamental principles of national public policy of the forum State. The author assesses positively the regulation of mandatory rules in the Rome I Regulation, which clearly distinguishes between mandatory rules and overriding mandatory rules, but notes that many issues still remain unsolved, such as the scope and conditions of application of the overriding mandatory provisions.

The conflict of law rules for non-contractual obligations have also been harmonised at EU level to complement both the Brussels I Regulation (which relates to both contractual and non-contractual obligations) and the Rome I Convention (nowadays a Regulation). The Rome II Regulation5 creates a harmonised set of rules within the European Union to govern choice of law in civil and commercial matters concerning non-contractual obligations. One of the fields of tort law it regulates is product liability. The article of Guillermo Palao Moreno, which is of high practical importance, analyses the conflict of law rule for product liability cases contained in Article 5 of the Rome II Regulation. In his thorough analysis of Article 5 of the Rome II Regulation, read in conjunction with the other provisions of the Regulation, the author points out that its application could however lead to an undesirable result. Although the inclusion of a specific provision for product liability primarily aims at avoiding the application of the general conflict of law rule of the law of the country in which the damage occurs, Article 5 maintains those solutions present in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 4. Furthermore, the author calls for clarification as to the coordination of the Rome II Regulation with the Hague Convention of 2 October 1973 on the Law Applicable to Products Liability.

The last three articles are written in English. The first is written in French.