Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (IPRax) 1/2015: Abstracts

The latest issue of the “Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (IPRax)” features the following articles:

Heinz-Peter Mansel/Karsten Thorn/Rolf Wagner, European conflict of laws 2014: The year of upheaval
The article provides an overview of developments in Brussels in the field of judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters from December 2013 until November 2014. It summarizes current projects and new instruments that are presently making their way through the EU legislative process. It also refers to the laws enacted at the national level in Germany as a result of new European instruments. Furthermore, the authors look at areas of law where the EU has made use of its external competence. They discuss both important decisions and pending cases before the ECJ as well as important decisions from German courts pertaining to the subject matter of the article. In addition, the article also looks at current projects and the latest developments at the Hague Conference of Private International Law.

Anatol Dutta, The European Succession Regulation: Ten issues in miniature
Since its adoption in July 2012, the European Succession Regulation has generated a great volume of scholarly writing, although being applicable only from summer 2015 onwards. The following paper shall retrace ten selected issues which have been subject to debate during those first three years, namely (1) the delimitation between the applicable succession law and matrimonial property law, in particular regarding the German lump sum approach as to the participation of the surviving spouse in the gain obtained during marriage, (2) the role of legacies or other attributions which directly transfer ownership in certain objects of the estate from the testator to the legatee or other beneficiaries, in particular in case of a so-called legatum per vindicationem, (3) the localization of joint wills of spouses or registered partners, (4) the scope of the special jurisdictional rules in case of a choice of law, (5) the admissibility of certain types of testamentary dispositions, (6) the problem of incidental questions in the applicable succession law, (7) the binding effects of a choice of law, (8) the role of national certificates of inheritance under the Regulation, (9) the scope of the duty to accept foreign authentic instruments, and (10) the impact of previous overriding succession-related conventions of the Member States on the European Certificate of Succession.

Peter Mankowski, The Deceased’s Habitual Residence in Art. 21 (1) Successions Regulation
Art. 21 (1) Successions Regulation hails the deceased’s habitual residence as the dominant connecting factor for objectively determining the applicable law. The European legislator intends to nurture integration and personal mobility within the Internal Market. Habitual residence as connecting factor raises quite some questions, though. Recitals (23) and (24) are only helpful up to a certain extent in this regard. To place particular reliance on the deceased’s intentions would be misconceived. To rely on such intentions would generate a bevy of consequential issues, for instance concerning the deceased’s mental sanity or other persons’ influence. Moving cross-border ordinarily is a deep cut in everybody’s personal life and should be a clear warning of possibly ensuing consequences. To assume an alternating habitual residence provides a solution for the tricky cases that someone is living in different places consecutively each year. With regard to cross-border commuters the place where they habitually carry out their work is only relevant for employment purposes but does not determine their habitual residence.

Burkhard Hess/Katharina Raffelsieper, The European Account Preservation Order: A long-overdue reform to carry out cross-border enforcement in the European Area of Justice
This article describes the key elements of Regulation (EC) 655/2014 establishing a European Account Preservation Order adopted in May 2014 and explains its practical implications. This new instrument will facilitate direct cross-border enforcement of monetary claims by allowing creditors to block bank accounts in other EU Member States (with the exception of the UK and Denmark). The Regulation shall be available as an additional alternative to existing national provisional relief. However, it implements the so-called surprise effect in cross-border cases: the blocking effect takes place without any prior notification to the debtor.
At the same time, appropriate safeguards to protect the debtor’s rights are in place, such as the obligation of the creditor to compensate the damage caused to the debtor by the seizure if the order is subsequently set aside. The debtor’s right to be heard will be safeguarded by a hearing in the Member State of enforcement taking place after the blocking of the account. Finally the livelihood of the debtor is assured by the application of the respective national laws of the Member State of enforcement governing non-attachable amounts. All in all, the European Account Preservation Order can be qualified a major achievement which will considerably improve cross-border enforcement in the EU. It fills the gap in creditor protection left open by the Brussels I Recast which has unnecessarily abolished the surprise effect of provisional measures in the cross-border context.

Christian Kohler, A Farewell to the Autonomous Interpretation of the Concept of ‘Civil and Commercial Matters’ in Article 1 of Regulation Brussels I?
In Case C-49/12, Sunico, the ECJ held that the concept of “civil and commercial matters” within the meaning of Article 1 of Regulation Brussels I covers an action whereby a public authority of one Member State claims, as against persons resident in another Member State, damages for loss caused by a tortious conspiracy to commit value added tax fraud in the first Member State. The author argues that the judgment is not in line with the ECJ’s earlier caselaw on the autonomous interpretation of that concept. As the defendants in Sunico were the real beneficiaries of the sums obtained by means of tax evasion and the damages claimed corresponded to the amount of the VAT not paid, the action was brought in the exercise of the authority’s powers and concerned a “revenue matter” within the meaning of Article 1(1) of the Regulation. The author observes a tendency in the ECJ’s recent case-law to give too much weight to the law of the Member State of the proceedings when interpreting the concept of “civil and commercial matters”. However, a shift towards a “national” rather than an autonomous interpretation of that concept would be detrimental to the uniform application of the Regulation. Although a wide interpretation of the concept is to be approved, the rationale behind the exclusion of matters of public law from the scope of the Regulation remains valid.

Michael Grünberger, The Place of an Alleged Infringement of Copyright under the Brussels I-Regulation
The CJEU held in Pinckney v KDG Mediatech AG that a court has international jurisdiction for a copyright infringement claim according to Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I regulation, if the member state in which that court is situated protects the copyrights relied on by the plaintiff and the harmful event alleged may occur within the jurisdiction of the court seised. First, the court reaffirmed that jurisdiction in intellectual property rights claims can be allotted based on both, the place where the damage occurred and the place of the event giving rise to it. Second, the CJEU developed a specific approach for non-registered IP rights, merging the classical Shevill doctrine with its solution to IP rights in Wintersteiger. Third, the CJEU rebuffed any attempt to apply any further localization criteria to limit a national court’s international jurisdiction in multistate infringements. Fourth, the approach enables the plaintiff to sue one of several supposed perpetrators of the damage in the place where the final damage has occurred even though he or she did not act within the jurisdiction of the court seised.

Christoph Thole, Jurisdiction for injuncture relief and contractual penalties
The judgment in question was linked to two significant problems within the law of international jurisdiction. It concerned a legal action taken by an association and the question of jurisdiction for injuncture relief in cases without adherence to a specific locality. Although the court reaches – in spite of overlooking several aspects – the correct result, the judgment still reveals yet unresolved questions of how to treat agreements on contractual penalties and negative covenants with respect to the place of performance under art. 5 no. 1 Brussels I-Reg. (= art. 7 no. 1 Reg. 1215/2012).

Marta Requejo Isidro, On Exequatur and the ECHR: Brussels I Regulation before the ECtHR
Concerns about the relationship between Article 6 ECHR and the international procedural law instruments of European (Community) source has long been a recurring topic in the legal literature. The issue has been reviewed recently by the ECtHR: concrete aspects of the European system of recognition and exequatur of judgments among EU Member States have been assessed by the Court in light of the so called Bosphorus test and the presumption of equivalence in Povse v. Austria, of 18.6.2013, in the domain of family law; and in the decision we comment on here, Avoti?š v. Latvia, rendered on 25.2.2014, where Regulation Brussels I was applied. Avoti?š v. Latvia is remarkable and must be approved for the tolerance shown by the ECtHR towards existing EU law and its application by the Member States at a very sensitive stage of the relations EU/Strasbourg. However, disappointment cannot be hidden as regards its grounds used by the ECtHR: technically the decision is based on unclear, disputable reasoning, as well as on a rather superficial assessment of the Bosphorus test. It is therefore not surprising that the judgment was adopted by a narrow majority of just four votes against three.

Friedrich Niggemann, Foreign precautionary measures to take evidence under the Brussels I-Regulation: New attempts, but still no convincing solution
The decision of the OLG München of 14.2.2014 is part of the quite heterogeneous case law of the German courts under Art. 31 Regulation 44/2001. Following an expert procedure in France the German party to this procedure started a second procedure with the same object in Munich, which was the agreed place of jurisdiction. The German court refused jurisdiction on the basis of Art. 27 par. 2 Regulation 44/2001. Whereas the result is in line with the decisions of the ECJ, the decision remains nevertheless unconvincing. It considers that the French procedure is not a provisional one under Art. 31, but an ordinary one, which in the court’s opinion is apparently necessary to justify the refusal of jurisdiction. However this is contrary to the ECJ’s definition of a provisional decision. Moreover the ECJ attributes the consequence of Art. 27 para. 2 Regulation 44/2001 not only to ordinary but as well to provisional decisions.

Sarah Nietner, Fragmentation of the law applicable to succession by way of party autonomy: What will be the impact of the Succession Regulation?
The present case deals with a succession having cross-border implications. The deceased was a Swedish citizen who had her habitual residence in Germany at the time of her death. In her disposition of property upon death, the deceased had chosen German law to govern her succession with regards to her immovable property located in Germany. The deceased had disinherited her niece, who contests the validity of the will due to lack of testamentary capacity. The Higher Regional Court of Hamm found that the question, whether the deceased had been capable of drawing up her will, is governed by German law with respect to the immovable property located in Germany, whereas Swedish law decides on the question of capacity regarding the other assets. The fragmentation of succession results from the possibility to choose the law governing the succession, which is granted by Art. 25 (2) of the Introductory Act to the German Civil Code. This contribution outlines the decision of the court and examines how the situation will change under the European Regulation on Succession and Wills, which aims to avoid contradictory results due to a fragmentation of succession.

Rolf A. Schütze, On providing security for costs of proceedings under Austrian law
Under Austrian Law a foreign plaintiff in civil litigation is obliged to provide security for costs. The foreign plaintiff is released from such obligation if – inter alia – there is a provision in an international treaty on security for cost or if an Austrian decision on costs can be recognized and enforced in the country of the habitual residence of the plaintiff. According to the ruling of the Austrian Supreme Court, however, the release from the cautio iudicatum solvi on the ground of the possibility to execute cost decisions under national law does not apply if there is an international treaty, even if such treaty – as in the instant case – does not release the plaintiff from the obligation to provide security for costs. Therefore the Court did not examine the issue of enforceability of an Austrian cost decision under the laws of the British Virgin Islands.