Information and text provided by Niklaus Meier, co-head of the Private International Law Unit at the Swiss Federal Office of Justice
The Swiss Federal Act on Private International Law (FAPIL), adopted in 1987, has had – and still has – a huge influence throughout the world. It is “possibly the most complete codification of private international law worldwide” (Kadner Graziano, Journal of Private International Law. 2015, vol. 11, no. 3, p. 585: “Codifying European Private International Law: The Swiss Private International Law Act – A Model for a Comprehensive European Private International Law Regulation?”) and has influenced PIL codifications in many countries (Kadner Graziano, p. 589-90).
The global relevance of the Swiss Federal Act on PIL led to numerous translations, testament of its international character. Complete translations have been published by Prof. Andreas Bucher (last updated 2021): www.andreasbucher-law.ch; Umbricht attorneys (2017): www.umbricht.ch/de/schweizerisches-internationales-privatrecht-iprg; Gehri/Walther (2010): www.schulthess.com/verlag/detail/ISBN-9783280072509/Gehri-Myriam-A.-Walther-Fridolin/Swiss-Laws-on-Civil-Procedure; the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce (2nd edition 2004, 1st edition 1989); and Karrer/Arnold/Patocchi (1994): Switzerland’s Private International Law (Schulthess/Kluwer). In addition, chapter 12 on arbitration has been translated by actors active in the field, such as the Swiss Arbitration Association (www.arbitration-ch.org/en/arbitration-in-switzerland/index.html).
Translation is a difficult task: “Mastery of the languages involved is necessary, but not sufficient, particularly where the user of a translation expects a literal translation, the legal systems of the starting languages and target language differ fundamentally and the subject matter is highly abstract.” (Walter König, 11 Mich. J. Int’. L. 1294 (1990), 1295, “Translation of Legal Texts: Three English Versions of the Swiss Federal Statute on Private International Law”). Indeed, a civil law codification usually “contains many legal terms which either do not exist in common law jurisdictions or have different connotations in the case of literal translations”.
In recent years, the importance of English versions of the Swiss legal texts has grown. To give just one example: Article 4.4 of the Swiss-Chinese Free Trade Agreement (page 23) explicitly states (under the heading “transparency”) that “Each Party shall promptly publish on the Internet, and as far as practicable in English, all laws, regulations and rules of general application relevant to trade in goods between China and Switzerland.” It goes without saying that the FAPIL is relevant for international trade. Read more...