Polish Constitutional Court about to review the constitutionality of the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign State?

Written by Zuzanna Nowicka, lawyer at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and lecturer at Department of Logic and Legal Argumentation at University of Warsaw

In the aftermath of the judgment of the ICJ of 2012 in the case of the Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy: Greece intervening) that needs no presentation here (for details see, in particular, the post by Burkhard Hess), by its judgment of 2014, the Italian Constitutional Court recognized the duty of Italy to comply with the ICJ judgment of 2012 but subjected that duty to the “fundamental principle of judicial protection of fundamental rights” under Italian constitutional law (for a more detailed account of those developments see this post on EAPIL by Pietro Franzina and further references detailed there). In a nutshell, according to the Italian Constitutional Court, the fundamental human rights cannot be automatically and unconditionally sacrificed in each and every case in order to uphold the jurisdiction immunity of a foreign State allegedly responsible for serious international crimes.

Since then, the Italian courts have reasserted their jurisdiction in such cases, in some even going so far as to decide on the substance and award compensation from Germany. The saga continues, as Germany took Italy to the ICJ again in 2022 (for the status of the case pending before the ICJ see here). It even seems not to end there as it can be provocatively argued that this saga has its spin-off currently taking place before the Polish courts.

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The Greek Supreme Court has decided: Relatives of persons killed in accidents are immediate victims

A groundbreaking judgment was rendered last October by the Greek Supreme Court. Relatives of two Greek crew members killed in Los Llanos Air Base, Spain, initiated proceedings before Athens courts for pain and suffering damages (solatium). Although the action was dismissed by the Athens court of first instance, and the latter decision was confirmed by the Athens court of appeal, the cassation was successful: The Supreme Court held that both the Brussels I bis Regulation and the Lugano Convention are establishing international jurisdiction in the country where the relatives of persons killed are domiciled, because they must be considered as direct victims.



On 26 January 2015, an F-16D Fighting Falcon jet fighter of the Hellenic Air Force crashed into the flight line at Los Llanos Air Base in Albacete, Spain, killing 11 people: the two crew members and nine on the ground.

The relatives of the Greek crew members filed actions for pain and suffering damages before the Athens court of first instance against a US (manufacturer of the aircraft) and a Swiss (subsidiary of the manufacturer) company. The action was dismissed in 2019 for lack of international jurisdiction. The appeals lodged by the relatives before had the same luck: the Athens court of appeal confirmed in 2020 the first instance ruling. The relatives filed a cassation, which led to the judgment nr. 1658/5.10.2022 of the Supreme Court.

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Standard (and burden) of proof for jurisdiction agreements

Courts are often required to determine the existence or validity of jurisdiction agreements. This can raise the question of the applicable standard of proof. In common law jurisdictions, the question is not free from controversy.  In particular, Stephen Pitel has argued on this very blog that jurisdiction clauses should be assessed on the balance of probabilities, as opposed to the “good arguable case” standard that is commonly applied (see, in more detail, Stephen Pitel and Jonathan de Vries “The Standard of Proof for Jurisdiction Clauses” (2008) 46 Canadian Business Law Journal 66). That is because the court’s determination on this question will ordinarily be final – it will not be revisited at trial.

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China’s Draft Law on Foreign State Immunity—Part II

Written by Bill Dodge, the John D. Ayer Chair in Business Law and Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law.

In December 2022, Chinese lawmakers published a draft law on foreign state immunity, an English translation of which is now available. In a prior post, I looked at the draft law’s provisions on immunity from suit. I explained that the law would adopt the restrictive theory of foreign state immunity, bringing China’s position into alignment with most other countries.

In this post, I examine other important provisions of the draft law, including immunity from attachment and execution, service of process, default judgments, and foreign official immunity. These provisions generally follow the U.N. Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property, which China signed in 2005 but has not yet ratified.

China’s draft provisions on immunity from attachment and execution, service of process, and default judgments make sense. Applying the draft law to foreign officials, however, may have the effect of limiting the immunity that such officials would otherwise enjoy under customary international law. This is probably not what China intends, and lawmakers may wish to revisit those provisions before the law is finally adopted. Read more

What is a Judgment (in the context of Reg 655/2014)? – CJEU Case C-291/21 Starkinvest

Less than half a year after the CJEU’s decision in Case C-646/20 Senatsverwaltung für Inneres (discussed here by Krzysztof Pacula), the Court had to engage again with the question of what constitutes a “judgment” in the sense of an EU instrument in Case C-291/21 Starkinvest.

This time, the question arose in the context of Regulation 655/2014 establishing a European Account Preservation Order procedure to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters. The regulation envisages two kinds of situation:

  1. The creditor has already obtained a “judgment” (Art. 7(1)): In this case, the creditor only needs to show that there is an urgent need for a protective measure to ensure that the judgment can be effectively enforced against the debtor.
  2. The creditor has not yet obtained a “judgment” (Art. 7(2)): In this case, the creditor also needs to show “that he is likely to succeed on the substance of his claim against the debtor”.

In Starkinvest, the claimant had obtained a decision from the Tribunal de commerce de Liège, Belgium, that ordered the debtor to cease seeling certain goods, subject to a penalty payment of EUR 2 500 per breach. On the basis of that decision, they later sought payment of EUR 85 000 in penalties, which they requested the referring court to secure through a European Account Preservation Order. Confronted with the question of how to characterise the initial decision in the context of the above dichotomie, the court referred the case to the CJEU.

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International commercial courts for Germany?

This post is also available via the EAPIL blog.

On 25 April 2023 the German Federal Ministry of Justice (Bundesministerium der Justiz – BMJ) has published a bill relating to the establishment of (international) commercial courts in Germany. It sets out to strengthen the German civil justice system for (international) commercial disputes and aims to offer parties an attractive package for the conduct of civil proceedings in Germany. At the same time, it is the aim of the bill to improve Germany’s position vis-à-vis recognized litigation and arbitration venues – notably London, Amsterdam, Paris and Singapore. Does this mean that foreign courts and international commercial arbitration tribunals will soon face serious competition from German courts?

English-language proceedings in all instances

Proposals to improve the settlement of international commercial disputes before German courts have been discussed for many years. In 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2021, the upper house of the German Federal Parliament (Bundesrat) introduced bills to strengthen German courts in (international) commercial disputes. However, while these bills met with little interest and were not even discussed in the lower house of Parliament (Bundestag) things look much brighter this time: The coalition agreement of the current Federal Government, in office since 2021, promises to introduce English-speaking special chambers for international commercial disputes. The now published bill of the Federal Ministry of Justice can, therefore, be seen as a first step towards realizing this promise. It heavily builds on the various draft laws of the Bundesrat including a slightly expanded version that was submitted to the Bundestag in 2022.

The bill allows the federal states (Bundesländer) to establish special commercial chambers at selected regional courts (Landgerichte) which shall, if the parties so wish, conduct the proceedings comprehensively in English. Appeals and complaints against decisions of these chambers shall be heard in English before English-language senates at the higher regional courts (Oberlandesgerichte). If the value in dispute exceeds a threshold value of 1 million Euros and if the parties so wish, these special senates may also hear cases in first instance. Finally, the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) shall be allowed to conduct proceedings in English. Should the bill be adopted – which seems more likely than not in light of the coalition agreement – it will, thus, be possible to conduct English-language proceedings in at least two, maybe even three instances. Compared to the status quo, which limits the use of English to the oral hearing (cf. Section 185(2) of the Court Constitution Act) and the presentation of English-language documents (cf. Section 142(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure) this will be a huge step forward. Nonetheless, it seems unlikely that adoption of the bill will make Germany a much more popular forum for the settlement of international commercial disputes.

Remaining disadvantages vis-à-vis international commercial arbitration

To begin with, the bill – like previous draft laws – is still heavily focused on English as the language of the court. Admittedly, the bill – following the draft law of the Bundesrat of March 2022 – also proposes changes that go beyond the language of the proceedings. For example, the parties are to be given the opportunity to request a verbatim record of the oral proceedings. In addition, business secrets are to be better protected. However, these proposals cannot outweigh the numerous disadvantages of German courts vis-à-vis arbitration. For example, unlike in arbitration, the parties have no influence on the personal composition of the court. As a consequence, they have to live with the fact that their – international – legal dispute is decided exclusively by German (national) judges, who rarely have the degree of specialization that parties find before international arbitration courts. In addition, the digital communication and technical equipment of German courts is far behind what has been standard in arbitration for many years. And finally, one must not forget that there is no uniform legal framework for state judgments that would ensure their uncomplicated worldwide recognition and enforcement.

Weak reputation of German substantive law

However, the bill will also fail to be a resounding success because it ignores the fact that the attractiveness of German courts largely depends on the attractiveness of German law. To be sure, German courts may also apply foreign law. However, their real expertise – and thus their real competitive advantage especially vis-à-vis foreign courts – lies in the application of German law, which, however, enjoys only a moderate reputation in (international) practice. Among the disadvantages repeatedly cited by practitioners are, on the one hand, the numerous general clauses (e.g. §§ 138, 242 of the German Civil Code), which give the courts a great deal of room for interpretation, and, on the other hand, the strict control of general terms and conditions in B2B transactions. In addition – and irrespective of the quality of its content – German law is also not particularly accessible to foreigners. Laws, decisions and literature are only occasionally available in English (or in official English translation).

Disappointing numbers in Amsterdam, Paris and Singapore

Finally, it is also a look at other countries that have set up international commercial courts in recent years that shows that the adoption of the bill will not make German courts a blockbuster. Although some of these courts are procedurally much closer to international commercial arbitration or to the internationally leading London Commercial Court, their track record is – at least so far – rather disappointing.

This applies first and foremost to the Netherlands Commercial Court (NCC), which began its work in Amsterdam in 2019 and offers much more than German courts will after the adoption and implementation of the bill: full English proceedings both in first and second instance, special rules of procedure inspired by English law on the one hand and international commercial arbitration law on the other, a court building equipped with all technical amenities, and its own internet-based communication platform. The advertising drum has also been sufficiently beaten. And yet, the NCC has not been too popular so far: in fact, only 14 judgments have been rendered in the first four years of its existence (which is significantly less than the 50 to 100 annual cases expected when the court was set up).

The situation in Paris is similar. Here, a new chamber for international commercial matters (chambre commerciale internationale) was established at the Cour d’appel in 2018, which hears cases (at least in parts) in English and which applies procedural rules that are inspired by English law and international arbitration. To be sure, the latter cannot complain about a lack of incoming cases. In fact, more than 180 cases have been brought before the new chamber since 2018. However, the majority of these proceedings are due to the objective competence of the Chamber for international arbitration, which is independent of the intention of the parties. In contrast, it is not known in how many cases the Chamber was independently chosen by the parties. Insiders, however, assume that the numbers are “negligible” and do not exceed the single-digit range.

Finally, the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), which was set up in 2015 with similarly great effort and ambitions as the Netherlands Commercial Court, is equally little in demand. Since its establishment, it has been called upon only ten times by the parties themselves. In all other cases in which it has been involved, this has been at the instigation of the Singapore High Court, which can refer international cases to the SICC under certain conditions.

No leading role for German courts in the future

In the light of all this, there is little to suggest that the bill, which is rather cautious in its substance and focuses on the introduction of English as the language of proceedings, will lead to an explosion – or even only to a substantial increase – in international proceedings before German courts. While it will improve – even though only slightly – the framework conditions for the settlement of international disputes, expectations regarding the effect of the bill should not be too high.


Note: Together with Yip Man from Singapore Management University Giesela Rühl is the author of a comparative study on new specialized commercial courts and their role in cross-border litigation. Conducted under the auspices of the International Academy of Comparative Law (IACL) the study will be published with Intersentia in the course of 2023.

A conference to honor Professor Linda Silberman at NYU

This week a conference took place to honor Professor Linda Silberman at New York University (NYU). She is currently the Clarence D. Ashley Professor of Law Emerita at NYU. The full program is available here.

Anyone who has had the privilege of taking Linda Silberman’s classes would agree with me that she is an outstanding scholar and professor. Someone who takes the art of teaching to another level, a very kind and brilliant person who truly enjoys building the legal minds of the lawyers and academics of the future. In my view, nothing in the academic world compares to taking the “international litigation” class with her. Thus, this is more than a well-deserved event.

The conference flyer indicates the following:

“When Professor Linda Silberman came to NYU in 1971, she was the first woman hired for the NYU Law tenure-track faculty. In 1977, she became the first tenured female professor on the NYU Law faculty. Although she took emerita status in September 2022, she continues as the Co-Director of the NYU Center on Transnational Litigation, Arbitration, and Commercial Law. For over 30 years, Professor Silberman taught hundreds of first-year students Civil Procedure and she is the co-author of a leading Civil Procedure casebook that starts with her name. Throughout her career, Professor Silberman also taught Conflict of Laws and in the past twenty-five years branched out to teach Comparative Procedure, Transnational Litigation, and International Arbitration. Professor Silberman is a prolific scholar and her articles have been cited by numerous courts in the United States, including the Supreme Court, and also by foreign courts. Professor Silberman has been active in the American Law Institute as an Advisor on various ALI projects, including serving as a co-Reporter on a project on the recognition of foreign country judgments. She has also been a member of numerous U.S. State Department delegations to the Hague Conference on Private International Law. In 2021, Professor Silberman gave the general course on Private International Law at the Hague Academy of International Law.”

Below I include some of the publications of Professor Silberman (an exhaustive list is available here):

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Relevance of Indian Limitation Law vis-à-vis Foreign-seated International Arbitration With Indian Law As The Applicable Substantive Law

Written by Harshal Morwale, Counsel, Singularity Legal


The precise determination of the laws that will govern different aspects of international arbitration is a crucial matter, given that there could be a substantial divergence between different laws, such as the law of the seat and the substantive law of the contract on the same issue. One such issue is limitation.

The determination of the law applicable to limitation is a complex exercise. The different characterization of limitation as a procedural or substantive issue adds more to the complexity. This issue could not be simpler in India. This post is prompted by a recent decision of the Delhi High Court (“DHC”) in Extramarks Education India v Shri Ram School (“Extramarks case”), which although on domestic arbitration, makes various obiter observations on the nature of limitation and flexibility of parties to contract out of the same.

The aim of this post is to explore how would Indian substantive law of the contract impact limitation period and party autonomy, especially in the context of contracting out of limitation in a foreign-seated international arbitration. It will also look at the legality of limitation standstill agreements to defer the limitation period in the context of foreign-seated arbitration by examining prevailing legal principles together with relevant case laws and through the prism of the decision in the Extramarks case.

Classification of limitation in the context of foreign-seated arbitrations – procedural or substantive?

The limitation in India is governed by the Limitation Act, 1963 (“Limitation Act”).

The Supreme Court of India (“SC”) and the Law Commission of India have characterised the law of limitation as a procedural law. That being stated, the SC has also proposed a more nuanced approach to classifying law of limitation noting that while limitation is prima facie a procedural law construct, its substantive law characteristics cannot be wholly discounted.

This distinction was affirmed by the DHC in the NNR Global Logistics case, which concerned the enforcement of a foreign award where the seat of arbitration was Kuala Lumpur and the applicable substantive law of the contract was Indian law. Under Indian law, the limitation for the type of cause of action at stake, in this case, was three years as opposed to Malaysian law, where the limitation was six years. The respondent argued that since Indian law is the substantive law governing the contract, and given that the Limitation Act could be substantive law, Indian limitation law would apply. The DHC rejected this contention and held that the law of limitation is procedural, and the issues of limitation would be governed by procedural/curial law governing the arbitration, i.e., the lex arbitri. However, the DHC’s reasoning is suspect insofar as it makes the link between limitation law and procedural law uncritically, discounting the impact or connection of limitation with the remedy, and the substantive law implications therewith.

While the premise that since the arbitral procedure is governed by the lex arbitri and since limitation is generally a procedural law subject, the lex arbitri must govern the limitation might appear fairly straight forward, there exists a degree of tentativeness as to the characterisation of limitation in the context of international arbitration. The recent DHC decision in the Extramarks case makes some interesting observations which could have a deep impact on the mentioned premise.

In the Extramarks case, the issue at stake was the limitation period for filing an application before the High Court for the appointment of the arbitrator, for a purported India-seated domestic arbitration. The DHC held that conceptually, limitation bars a legal remedy and not a legal right, the legal policy being to ensure that legal remedies are not available endlessly but only up-to a certain point in time. The DHC further held that a party may concede a claim at any time; but cannot concede availability of a legal remedy beyond the prescribed period of limitation. In essence, according to the DHC, passing of limitation bars a remedy, which would generally mean that limitation is a procedural law subject. This distinction is in line with the traditional ‘right is substantive and remedy is procedural’ divide that exists in the common law. However, this position is not a settled one and remedy, could, arguably, be governed by the substantive law governing the contract.

Interestingly, the Singapore Court of Appeal in BBA v. BAZ, drew a distinction between procedural and substantive time bars in the context of international arbitration, noting that time bar of remedy is procedural in nature. Simultaneously, it was also observed that choice of seat does not automatically require application of the seat’s limitation period and the applicable substantive law will have to be looked at. Consequently, the principle that limitation is a procedural law issue and subject to lex arbitri cannot be relied on reflexively.

If the position of the DHC in NNR Global Logistics case is contrasted with the position in Extramarks case, acknowledging the difficulties in making substantive and procedural classification vis-à-vis limitation in international arbitration, then the choice of Indian substantive law in a foreign-seated arbitration could potentially mean that the tribunal presiding over in a foreign-seated arbitration with Indian substantive applicable law could potentially be required to engage in the limitation period analysis from the perspective of the seat as well as the Limitation Act and might be confronted with conflicting limitation periods. However, there lacks judicial clarity as to how to resolve the conflict when there is repugnancy in limitation prescribed in the lex arbitri and the Limitation Act, which would more often be the case.

Notably, Schwenzer and Manner argue that choice of substantive law should prevail over choice of seat and lex causae must govern the question of limitation of actions, notwithstanding whether it is classified as substantive or procedural. Indeed, this is the prevalent position in the civil law jurisdictions. However, this argument, if accepted, will have certain repercussions on the party autonomy, especially from an Indian perspective in the context of standstill agreements, as explored below.

Suspending/Extending Limitation in Foreign-seated Arbitrations

A standstill agreement is a contract between the potential parties to a claim to either extend or suspend the limitation period for a fixed time or until a triggering event occurs without acknowledging the liability.

The legality of such agreements is not entirely clear under Indian law. For instance, Section 28 of the Limitation Act expressly bars agreements that limit the time within which a party may enforce its rights. However, the converse, i.e., the possible extension of limitation, is not discussed in the Limitation Act. According to Section 25(3) of the Indian Contract Act, the parties can enter into an agreement to enforce a time-barred debt as long as there is a written and signed promise to pay the debt, essentially acknowledge the debt/liability. However, as noted above a standstill agreement is not an admission or acknowledgement of liability and hence Section 25(3) would not applicable. It has also been noted that the legality of standstill agreements in India is sub-judice before the Madras High Court.

From an India-seated domestic arbitration perspective, in light of DHC’s ruling in the Extramarks case, that a “party may concede a claim at any time; but cannot concede availability of a legal remedy beyond the prescribed period of limitation”, it would mean that limitation standstill agreements would not be valid.

From a foreign-seated arbitration with Indian substantive applicable law perspective, relying on the NNR Global Logistics case, it may be argued that the seat’s procedural law, including limitation law provisions, will apply and as long as limitation standstill agreements are permitted under the lex arbitri, there should not be an issue. However, given that merits of the claim would be anchored in Indian law, if limitation is viewed from a substantive law perspective, the impact of the Extramarks case ruling on the parties’ ability to enter into standstill agreements in foreign seated arbitration with Indian substantive law appears precarious.

Essentially, the legality of standstill agreements in foreign seated arbitration with Indian substantive law faces a critical impediment explored above, i.e., the divide between substantive and procedural classification. One possible view could be that since the parties have already chosen the seat of the arbitration, all procedural law issues will be governed by law of the seat, if, indeed, limitation is treated as a procedural issue. A second, contrary view may be that the legality of a standstill agreement would be tested on the touchstone of Indian law, since the choice of applicable substantive law of the contract is Indian law under which limitation cannot be conceded beyond the prescribed period by consent.

Given that the impact of Indian substantive law on the issue of limitation and standstill agreements is not entirely clear, in light of the Extramarks case, the tribunals might now be required to consider a relatively unique issue of limitation period alongside large number of other considerations in an international arbitration with Indian substantive applicable law.   


In the process of exploring the impact of Indian substantive law of the contract on parties’ freedom to contract out of limitation in a foreign-seated international arbitration, the tensions between procedural law and substantive law in foreign-seated arbitrations vis-à-vis limitation become apparent. The tensions are further compounded by the ruling in the Extramarks case that limitation bars remedy and that the parties cannot contract out of limitation. The exact impact of the Extramarks case on the parties to an international arbitration contemplating standstill agreements remains unclear and the connected issues in this context remain to be seen.

(The opinions of the author are personal and do not represent the opinion of the organisations he is affiliated with.)

China’s Draft Law on Foreign State Immunity Would Adopt Restrictive Theory

Written by Bill Dodge, the John D. Ayer Chair in Business Law and Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law.

On the question of foreign state immunity, the world was long divided between countries that adhere to an absolute theory and those that adopted a restrictive theory. Under the absolute theory, states are absolutely immune from suit in the courts of other states. Under the restrictive theory, states are immune from suits based on their governmental acts (acta jure imperii) but not from suits based on their non-governmental acts (acta jure gestionis).

During the twentieth century, many countries adopted the restrictive theory. (Pierre-Hugues Verdier and Erik Voeten have a useful list of the dates on which countries switched on the last page of this article.) Russia and China were the most prominent holdouts. Russia joined the restrictive immunity camp in 2016 when its law on the jurisdictional immunity of foreign states went into effect. That left China. In December 2022, Chinese lawmakers published a draft law on foreign state immunity, an English translation of which has recently become available. If adopted, this law would move China to into the restrictive immunity camp as well.

China’s draft law on foreign state immunity has important implications for other states, which would now be subject to suit in China on a range of claims from which they were previously immune. The law also contains a reciprocity clause in Article 20, under which Chinese courts may decline to recognize the immunity of a foreign state if the foreign state would not recognize China’s immunity in the same circumstances. Chinese courts could hear expropriation or terrorism claims against the United States, for example, because the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) has exceptions for expropriation and terrorism.

In this post, the first of two, I look at the draft law’s provisions on foreign state immunity from suit from a U.S. perspective. In the second post, I will examine the law’s provisions on the immunity of a foreign state’s property from attachment and execution, its provisions on service and default judgments, and its potential effect on the immunity of foreign officials. Read more

BNP Paribas sued in France for financing fossil fuel companies

This post was written bu Begüm Kilimcioglu, PhD candidate at the University of Antwerp

On 23 February 2023, one of the biggest commercial banks in the Eurozone, BNP Paribas (BNP) was sued by Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and Notre Affaire à Tous for having allegedly provided loans to oil and gas companies in breach of the vigilance duty enshrined in la Loi de Vigilance (2017) of France. This case constitutes an important hallmark for the business and human rights world as it is the first climate action case against a commercial bank and so timely considering that the European Union (EU) is currently discussing whether or not to include the financial sector within the scope of the proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) (see here).

Article 1 of  la Loi de Vigilance imposes a duty to establish and implement an effective vigilance plan on any company whose head office is located on French territory and complies with the thresholds stated. This vigilance plan is supposed to include vigilance measures for risk identification and prevention of severe violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, serious bodily injury or environmental damage or health risks resulting directly or indirectly from the operations of the company and of the companies it controls, its subcontractors and suppliers with whom the company  has an established commercial relationship. As such, there is no distinction under the French law regarding the sector in which the company is operating which is in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles. Thus, it was surprising to see that France was quite vocal about not including the financial sector within the scope of CSDDD, as France was the first Member State to adopt a law on the duty of vigilance of the multinational companies and la Loi de Vigilance itself does not make distinctions based on the sector in which the company is operating.

According to la Loi de Vigilance, companies are required to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence which includes the following steps: identification and the analysis of the risks, regular assessment of the situation (in accordance with the previously identified risks) of the subsidiaries, subcontractors or suppliers with whom the company has an established commercial relationship, mitigation and prevention of serious violations through appropriate means, establishment of an alert mechanism which collects reports of existing or actual risks, establishment of a monitoring scheme to follow up on the measures implemented and assessment of their efficiency. This plan must be publicly disclosed.

In case the company does not comply with its vigilance obligations, a court can issue a formal notice, ordering the company to comply with la Loi de Vigilance. Furthermore, la Loi de Vigilance also provides for a civil remedy when a company does not meet its obligations. If damage caused by non-compliance with la Loi de Vigilance, any person with legitimate interest can seek reparation under tort law. Consequently, as a company headquartered in France and complying with the thresholds in Article 1 of la Loi de Vigilance, BNP has the duty to effectively establish, implement and monitor a vigilance plan to prevent, if not possible mitigate and bring an end to its adverse impacts on human rights and the environment.

The case against BNP before the French courts is a reminiscent of the case against Shell before the Dutch courts in 2019 where the environmental group (Milieudefensie) and co-plaintiffs argued that Shell’s business operations and sold energy products worldwide contributes significantly to climate change (and also much more than it has pledges to in its corporate policies and to the levels internationally determined by conventions) was a violation of its duty of care under Dutch law and human rights obligations. It is important here to highlight that the plaintiffs took Shell to the Dutch courts based on the environmental damage caused in the Netherlands, due to Shell’s operations worldwide.

In the said case, the applicable law to the dispute was determined by Rome II Regulation on non-contractual obligations, article 7. Article 7 presents an additional venue to the general rule for determining the applicable law (article 4) and grants the victims of environmental damage an opportunity to base their claims on the law of the country in which the event giving rise to the damage occurred. As such, the claimant primarily chose to base its claims on the law of the country in which the even giving rise to the damage occurred, as they claimed that the corporate policies for the Shell group were decided in its headquarters in the Netherlands. The Court considered the adoption of the corporate policy of the Shell group as an independent cause of the damage which may contribute to environmental damage with respect to Dutch residents. Thus, the Court considered that the choice of Dutch law by Milieudefensie was in line with the idea of protection of the victims behind the applicable law clauses in Rome II Regulations and upheld the choice to the extent that the action aimed to protect the interests of the Dutch residents (see paragraphs 4.3-4.4 of the decision).

In 2021, the Hague District Court ordered Shell to reduce both its own carbon emissions and end-use emissions by 45% by 2030 in relation to the 2019 figures. Naturally, the legal basis in the Dutch case was different than the legal basis in the French case, considering that the Netherlands does not yet have a national law like la Loi de Vigilance. Consequently, the core of the arguments of the applicants lied on the duty of care in Article 6:162 of the Dutch Civil Code and Articles 2 (right to life) and 8 (rights to private life, family life, home and correspondence) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In contrast, the BNP case has a more preventive nature and aims to force BNP to change and adapt its actions to the changing climate and scientific context. The NGOs primarily request an injunction for BNP to comply with the obligations provided for in the French Vigilance Law, as BNP falls within the scope of the French Law. More specifically, the NGOs request that BNP publishes and implements a new due diligence plan, containing the measures explained in the writ of summons. Therefore, the obligations arising from the French Vigilance Law are of a civil nature. Consequently, the law applicable to this dispute should also be determined by Rome II Regulation on non-contractual obligations. As explained above, Rome II Regulation gives an additional option for the plaintiffs to choose the applicable law in cases of environmental damage as either the country of damage or the country where the event that gives rise to the damage occurred. In the BNP case, the plaintiffs’ claim was based on French law. Applying Rome II Regulation, France can be considered as the country of the event which gives rise to the damage because it is where the corporate policies are prepared. Alternatively, it is also where the environmental damage occurs, as well as the rest of the world. Moreover, the plaintiffs relied on the general obligation of environmental vigilance as enshrined in the Charter of the Environment, which is considered an annex to the French Constitution and thus has the same authoritativeness. Invoking the constitution might bring in an argument on the basis of Article 16 Rome II, namely overriding principles of mandatory law.

If we rewind the story a little bit, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) stated above, firstly, served a formal notice to BNP on 26 October 2022 to stop supporting the development of fossil fuels. In the formal notice, the NGOs state that, to achieve the Paris Agreement trajectories, no more funding or investment should be given to the development of new fossil fuel projects, either directly or to the companies that carry out such operations (see p 3). They also draw attention to the fact that BNP has joined the Race to Zero campaign which aim for the inclusion of the nonstate actors in the race for carbon neutrality (p 3).

Basic research into BNP’s publicly available documents reveals that it, indeed, has committed to sustainable investment, acknowledging that air pollution and climate change deplete many resources. BNP further claims that it only supports companies that contribute to society and the environment and exclude coal, palm oil and nonconventional hydrocarbons. Moreover, as can be seen from its 2021 activity report, BNP presents itself as organizing its portfolios in a way that upholds the aims of the Paris Agreement. Lastly, BNP’s code of conduct, states that it commits to limiting any environmental impact indirectly resulting from its financing or investment activities or directly from its own operations (p 31). Furthermore, BNP also presents combatting climate change as its priority while stating that they finance the transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050 by supporting its customers in energy and ecological transitions (p 31).

However, the NGOs claim that contrary to these commitments, through various financing and investment activities, BNP becomes one of the main contributors to the fossil fuel sector by supporting the big oil and gas companies (p 4 of the formal notice). In this regard, BNP allegedly provides funds for the companies that actually put fossil fuel projects into action rather than financing these projects directly. As such, the NGOs aver that BNP’s vigilance plan is not in compliance with la Loi de Vigilance or its obligations to limit the climate risks resulting from its activities (p 6 of the formal notice). In this regard, the report draws attention to BNP’s prior public commitments to strengthen its exclusion policies regarding coal, oil and gas sectors (see pp 8-9 of the formal notice). Consequently, claiming that BNP has failed to comply with the notice, NGOs have referred the matter to the court.

In a bid to address the negative allegations on its behalf, BNP stated that it is focused on exiting the fossil fuel market, accelerating financing for renewable energies and supporting its clients in this regard. Furthermore, BNP also stated its regret in the advocacy groups choosing litigation over dialogue and that it was not able to stop all fossil-fuel financing right away.

In the course of these proceedings, the applicants will have to prove that if BNP were able to establish, implement and monitor a vigilance plan, the damage caused by these fossil fuel projects put into motion by different energy companies could have been avoided. In other words, the fact that BNP (or any other provider of the financial means) is the facilitator of these projects and that the damage is indirectly caused by its actions, make it more difficult for it to be held liable. As such, it may be more difficult for the claimants in the BNP case to prove the causality between the action and the damage than the Dutch case.

Consequently, this intricate web of interrelations demonstrates how important it is to include the financial actors within the scope of the CSDDD and explicitly put obligations on them to firstly respect and uphold human rights and environmental standards and then to proactively engage with an effective due diligence mechanism to prevent, mitigate and/or bring an end to actual/potential human rights and environmental impact.

Therefore, I hope that the European Commission and the Parliament will hold strong positions and not cave in to the proposal by the Council to leave it up to the Member States whether or not to include the financial sector within the scope. Such a compromise would significantly hinder the effectiveness of the proposed Directive.