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EU Member State sees opportunities in Brexit: Belgium is establishing a new English-language commercial court

Expecting higher demands for international commercial dispute resolution following Britain’s departure from the EU, Belgium plans to set up a new English-language commercial court, the Brussels International Business Court (BIBC), to take cases away from the courts and tribunals in London. This decision was announced on 27 Oct 2017. This BIBC is designed to address disputes arising out of Brexit and major international commercial disputes. The court will take jurisdiction based on parties’ choice, and will do the hearing and deliver judgments in English. The parties would have no right to appeal. BIBC combines elements of both traditional courts and arbitration. See comments here.

Although Brexit may cause uncertainty to litigants in the UK, a survey suggests that the EU judicial cooperation scheme is not the main reason for international parties choosing London to resolve their disputes. The top two factors that attract international litigants to London are the reputation and experience of English judges and combination of choice of court clauses with choice of law clauses in favor of English law,  followed by efficient remedies, procedural effectiveness, neutrality of the forum, market practice, English language, effective UK-based counsel, speed and enforceability of judgments. Furthermore, Brexit will not affect the New York Convention and would less likely affect London as an arbitration centre. It may be more reasonable to suggest that the main purpose of BIBC is not to compete with London at the international level, but to offer additional judicial tool and become a new commercial dispute resolution centre within the EU to attract companies and businesses to Brussels.

CJEU on the place of the damage under Article 7(2) of Brussels Ia as regards violation of personality rights of a legal person

First personal impressions presented by Edina Márton, LLM, PhD (Saarbruecken)

For jurisdictional purposes, the localisation of cross-border violations of personality rights under European instruments, such as Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 (Brussels Ia), has attracted the attention of a considerable number of scholars and often led to different legal solutions in the national judicial practice. At EU level, besides Shevill (C-68/93; ECLI:EU:C:1995:61) as well as eDate and Martinez (C-509/09 and C-161/20; ECLI:EU:C:2011:685), since 17 October 2017, a third judgment in case Bolagsupplysningen (C-194/16; ECLI:EU:C:2017:766) has given further clarification in this area. In the recently delivered judgment, the ECJ specified one of the two limbs of the connecting factor “where the harmful event occurred or may occur” under Article 7(2) of Brussels Ia, namely the place of the alleged damage. (more…)

Is “la réserve héréditaire” part of French international public policy ?

Through two decisions (Civ. 1ère, 27 sept. 2017, n° 16-17198 et 16-13151) both issued on September 27th, The French Cour de cassation finally gave an answer to one of the most discussed question of French Succession law: Is la réserve héréditaire part of French international public policy?

The circumstances of both cases are very similar. Two French composers living in California, where they had most of their assets, got married respectively in 1984 and 1990. They put their assets in a trust and designated their wives as beneficiaries. In both cases, the settlers did not designate the children they had from previous relationships as beneficiaries of the trust. After the death of their fathers, the latter turned to French courts in order to obtain part of the inheritance. They argued that the Californian law applicable to the succession should be declared contrary to French international public policy for not including a réserve héréditaire for certain heirs.

According to Article 912 §1 of the French Civil Code, la réserve hérédiataire or the reserved portion « is that part of the assets and rights of the succession whose devolution, free of charge, the law assures to certain heirs, called forced heirs, if they are called to the succession and if they accept it ». In other words, under French succession law, a person cannot freely dispose of all of his or her assets. French law set boundaries by putting aside a reserved portion of the deceased’s property. However, he or she can freely dispose of the disposable portion (quotité disponible) which is defined as « that part of the assets and rights of the succession that is not reserved by law and of which the deceased can freely dispose by liberalities » (Article 912 § 2).

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A true game changer and the apex stone of international commercial litigation – the NILR Special Edition on the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention is now available as final, paginated volume

On 2 July 2019, the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) adopted the 2019 Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters (2019 HCCH Judgments Convention). The instrument has already been described as a true game changer and the apex stone in international commercial litigation.

To celebrate the adoption of the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention, the Netherlands International Law Review (NILR) produced a special edition entirely dedicated to the instrument.

Volume 67(1) of the NILR, which is now available in its final, paginated version, features contributions from authors closely involved in the development of the instruments. The articles provide deep insights into the making, and intended operation, of the instrument. They are a valuable resource for law makers, practitioners, members of the judiciary and academics alike.

The NILR’s Volume comprises the following contributions (in order of print, open access contributions are indicated; the summaries are, with some minor modifications, those published by the NILR).

Notarization from abroad in times of travel restrictions

A French Décret, allows, for the time of the state of emergency, notarization by a French notary without a need for parties to be physically present. Explanation and analysis is here and (briefly) here. Importantly, the possibility is also open to non-residents of France.  Notaries in France had, unsurprisingly, warned of the risk of fraud, but the Conseil d’Etat approved of the decret.

Austria has a similar rule in sec. 90a of its Notary Act. In Germany, this is not (yet?)possible: Art. 40(1) of the German Notarisation Act requires physical presence of the parties; the greatest distance allowed is, apparently, the way to the parking lot. Estonia has introduced an e-notary for notarisation from abroad, but this is available only in Estonian embassies.

The French and Austrian rules raise interesting private international law questions. Usually, notarization requires physical presence – which is why so many lawyers fly from Germany to France to have contracts notarized. Can they now stay at home? If two French domiciliaries sign a contract electronically while in Switzerland, and notarization happens in France, is this a case of Art. 11(1) Rome I Regulation? That would lead to the odd result that the formal requirements would follow from either Swiss law or from the law applicable to the contract (which need not be French law) and not necessarily the law of the place where the French notary sits. And yet, Art. 11(2) seems inapplicable because the notary is not an agent of the parties. Should it be applicable by analogy? Should there be a special rule for notaries that used to be unnecessary because notarization always requires physical notaries? Or is this another reason to rethink the principle of locus regit actum for internet contracts?

CJEU on the implications of its Judgment in Pula Parking: Joined cases C-267/19 and C-323/19, Parking / Interplastics

Preliminary question and its context

In its Judgment of 7 May 2020, delivered in the joined cases C-267/19 and C-323/19 without Advocate General’s Opinion, the Court of Justice provides some further guidance on the implications of its previous case law and most notably of the Judgment in the case C-551/15, Pula Parking (‘Judgment in Pula Parking’).

Just as in the case that led to Judgment in Pula Parking, the requests for a preliminary ruling in the cases in question were lodged in the context of the proceedings on the oppositions to the writs of execution. Put succinctly: under the Croatian law, a notary issues a writ of execution based on an ‘authentic document’. The party against whom enforcement is sought may lodge an opposition to that writ. The court to which the opposition is transferred has jurisdiction to set aside the writ and to annul the measures taken so far. The procedure continues according to the rules applicable to cases of opposition to a payment order.