Fourth Issue of 2010’s Revue Critique de Droit International Privé

Revue Critique DIPThe last issue of the Revue critique de droit international privé was just released. It contains two articles and several casenotes. The full table of content can be found here.

In the first article, Dr. Marius Kohler and Dr. Markus Buschbaum discuss the concept of recognition of authentic instruments in the context of cross-border successions (La « reconnaissance » des actes authentiques prévue pour les successions transfrontalières. Réflexions critiques sur une approche douteuse entamée dans l’harmonisation des règles de conflits de lois). The English abstract reads:

However advantageous the introduction of a European inheritance certificate may be, as envisaged by the Commission’s proposed Regulation on international successions, it is in its current form likely to create friction because of the way in which it organises the relationship with national inheritance certificates. It would therefore be wise to restrict the use of the European certificate to international successions, where it could then be drafted on basis of the national one, and to limit its effects to the Member States of destination. Moreover, as far as the free circulation of authentic instruments in general is concerned, the Regulation raises serious misgivings as to the use made by the proposal of the concept of mutual recognition. It appears that this concept – appropriate as it is for judicial decisions – is unsuitable to promote the circulation of authentic instruments.

In the second article, Professor Malik Laazouzi, who teaches at St Etienne University, discusses the impact of the recent Inserm decision of the French Tribunal des conflits (a translation of which can be found here) on choice of law in administrative contracts (L’impérativité, l’arbitrage international des contrats administratifs et le conflit de lois. A propos de l’arrêt du Tribunal des conflits du 17 mai 2010, Inserm c/ Fondation Saugstad). I am grateful to the author for providing the following summary:

The Inserm case deals primarily with international arbitration issues. But the way of reasoning used to decide the case could also interfere with the handling of public law matters involving French public entities in private international law by French jurisdictions.

How did the issue occur ?

A French public law entity (Inserm) entered into a contract with a Norwegian Fondation (Letten F. Sugstad) in order, inter alia, to achieve the implementation of a research facility in France, including a construction project. An arbitration occurred to decide over the termination of the agreement by the Fondation. The arbitral award, rendered in France, dismissed Inserm’s claims. The French entity then applied to set aside the award simultaneously before french civil and administrative courts. To assert the jurisdiction of the letter, Insermargued that the dispute arose out of a French administrative contract.

The case has given rise to the intricate issue of allocation of jurisdiction between civil and administrative courts. As a matter of consequence, it has been brought before the Tribunal des conflits.

The question which the Tribunal des conflits had to solve is complicated to enunciate. Which one of the French civil or administrative courts have jurisdiction to set aside an international arbitral award rendered in France, in a dispute arisen out of the performance or termination of a contract to be performed on the French territory and entered into between a French public law entity and a foreign individual or entity ?

The Tribunal des conflits decided, on 17 may 2010, that the application to set aside the award in such a case is to be brought before civil courts, even if the contract is an administrative one under French law. This solution allows an exception when the contract entered into by a french public entity is governed by a mandatory administrative regime. In this particular case, administrative courts retain jurisdiction to decide over challenges to the arbitral award.

This decision is strictly limited to some international arbitration matters involving a contract entered into by a french public entity. When it is not the case – i.e. when no french public entity is involved – French administrative courts does not intervene at all.

This case is worth mentioning within the field of private international law. The distinction it introduces between mandatory and non mandatory administrative rules in the international arena could reshape the very idea of the split in methods to solve conflict of laws issues according to the public or private law nature of the rules at stake.