Droit international général

C?493/18, UB v. VA and others – Exclusive jurisdiction under the European Insolvency Regulation

Conflictoflaws - il y a 6 heures 10 min

By Dr Lukas Schmidt (PhD EBS Law School), law clerk (Rechtsreferendar) at the Regional Court of Wiesbaden, Germany

In cross-border insolvencies questions of international jurisdiction might arise either in relation to the opening of an insolvency proceeding as such, or – further down the road – in relation to proceedings deriving from already opened insolvency proceedings. In both cases the European Insolvency Regulation Recast (Regulation 2015/848) provides for answers: According to Article 3 of the Regulation the courts of the Member State within the territory of which the centre of a debtor’s main interests is situated shall have jurisdiction to open insolvency proceedings. Article 6 of the Regulation provides that the courts in such Member States shall have jurisdiction as well for actions deriving directly from insolvency proceedings and closely linked with them. Both kind of decisions are to be automatically recognized in all other member states, either through Art. 19 (judgments opening insolvency proceedings) or through Art. 32 (other judgments).

Whereas Article 3 is also to be found in the old EIR (Regulation 1346/2000) as is Article 19 (Article 16) and Article 32 (Article 25), Article 6 is a new provision, however based without any doubt on the ECJ´s settled case law (Seagon, C-339/07 and Schmid, C-382/12) on the old EIR. Still on the old regulation, but with effect also for Art. 6 and 32 EIR, the ECJ has now specified in the case UB v. VA and others (C-493-18) the scope and the exclusive nature of the vis attractiva concursus as (now) laid down in Art. 6 of the EIR.

Some facts are necessary to understand the case:

The insolvent debtor UB, a Dutch citizen, owned an apartment and a property complex in France. Although his assets had been frozen by an English court he and his sister VA signed an acknowledgement of debt by which UB acknowledged owing VA the sum of EUR 500 000 in respect of various loans. UB undertook to repay that sum by 22 August 2017 and subsequently mortgaged, in favour of VA, the apartment and the property complex which he owned in France. In March 2010 he had sold the apartment to Tiger, a company founded by VA. On 10 May 2011 insolvency proceedings were opened against UB in the United Kingdom by the Croydon County Court. The Croydon County Court authorised the insolvency administrator, to bring an action before the courts in France in order to obtain a ruling that the sale of the properties and the mortgages granted over those properties were avoidable under the relevant United Kingdom bankruptcy law provisions. The insolvency administrator made use of this authorisation and succeeded before the French Regional Court and the Court of Appeal. However, the Court of Cassation referred the question of international jurisdiction of the French courts (and its recognition) to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.

By answering the first two referred questions the ECJ has made clear – rather not surprising – that an action brought by the trustee in bankruptcy appointed by a court of the Member State within the territory of which the insolvency proceedings were opened seeking a declaration that the sale of immovable property situated in another Member State and the mortgage granted over it are ineffective as against the general body of creditors falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the first Member State.

The ECJ has pointed out that for determining whether actions derive directly from insolvency proceedings not the procedural context of the action is decisive, but its legal basis (the trustee asked the French courts to rule on a declaration of ineffectiveness rather than on an action to set the transactions aside).

Equally insignificant for international jurisdiction to hear an action for the restitution of immovable property to the bankruptcy estate is where those assets are located. The court underlines that the objective of improving the efficiency and speed of cross-border insolvency proceedings is only consistent with concentrating all the actions directly related to the insolvency proceedings before the courts of the Member State within the territory of which those proceedings were opened.

More intriguing and not yet subject to the ECJ’s case law is the question whether a court can confer its international jurisdiction according to Art. 6 EIR. Eventually, this is what the Croydon Country Court did by authorizing the administrator to bring an action before the French courts in order to obtain a ruling that UB´s deals regarding the French properties were avoidable transactions under the relevant United Kingdom bankruptcy law provisions. The referring Court of Cassation therefore asked in his third question if the UK court’s decision authorizing the insolvency administrator to bring an action before the French courts could be classified as a judgment concerning the course of insolvency proceedings within the meaning of Article 25 (now Article 32), which may, on that basis, be recognised with no further formalities, pursuant to that article.

The court’s answer to this question is in line with its decision in Wiemer & Trachte v. Tadzher (C-296/17) in which it already confirmed the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the Member State within the territory of which insolvency proceedings have been opened for set aside actions. Hence, the ECJ refused the UK court’s approach quite quickly stating that Article 25 (now 32) EIR cannot be interpreted in such a way as to call into question the said exclusive nature of the international jurisdiction of the courts of the Member State within the territory of which the insolvency proceedings were opened to hear actions which derive directly from those proceedings and which are closely connected with them. According to the ECJ Article 25 EIR merely allows for the possibility that the courts of a Member State within the territory of which insolvency proceedings have been opened may also hear and determine an action which derives directly from those proceedings and is closely connected with them, whether that be the court which opened the insolvency proceedings under Article 3(1), or another court of that same Member State having territorial and substantive jurisdiction.

The 2019 Hague Judgments Convention – A Game Changer?

Conflictoflaws - mer, 01/22/2020 - 14:58

The Hague Convention of 2 July 2019 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters will form the object of a conference (in English) scheduled to take place on 23 April 2020 at the Catholic University of Milan.

Speakers include Gilles Cuniberti (University of Luxembourg), Elena D’Alessandro (University of Turin), Francisco Garcimartín Alférez (Autonomous University of Madrid), Marko Jovanovic (University of Belgrade), Antonio Leandro (University of Bari) and Matthias Weller (University of Bonn). Fausto Pocar (University of Milan) will chair the conference while Luca Radicati di Brozolo (Catholic University of Milan) will offer some concluding remarks.

The event benefits from the support of EAPIL, the European Association of Private International Law, and of the Interest Group on Private International Law of SIDI, the Italian Society of International and EU Law.

Attendance is free, but those wishing to attend are required to register by 10 April 2020 through the conference website. In view of the limited seating capacity of the room where the conference will take place, early registration is recommended.

For more information: pietro.franzina@unicatt.it.

Two negatives a positive make? A brief report on anti anti-suit in (among others) continental courts.

GAVC - mer, 01/22/2020 - 01:01

A flag on anti anti-suit. Steve Ross reports here on the Paris Court of First Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) judgment in RG 19/59311 IPCom v Lenovo /Motorola granting a preliminary injunction.  IPCOM GmbH & Co. KG is an intellectual property rights licensing and technology R&D company. Lenovo/Motorola a telecommunications company. As Steve writes, the French Court held that it had jurisdiction over the case with regard to a patent infringement claim and ordered Lenovo to withdraw the motion for an anti-suit injunction which that company had brought before the US District Court of the Northern District of California in so far as it concerns the French part of the patent.

Steve notes (I have not read the actual judgment) that ‘according to the French Court, the international French public order (ordre public) does not recognise the validity of an anti-suit injunction, except where its purpose is to enforce a contractual jurisdiction clause or an arbitral clause. Under all other circumstances, anti-suit injunction proceedings have the effect of indirectly disregarding the exclusive power of each sovereign state to freely determine the international jurisdictional competence of their courts.’

Peter Bert also reports last week a German anti anti-suit injunction at the Courts in Munchen, also for IPR cases.

For progress in the US anti-suit (one ‘anti’ only) application see order here.

Juve Patent report (as does Peter) that the High Court, too, has issued a (partial) anti anti-suit in the case however I have not been able to locate the judgment.

Note that continental courts (see in the French case) finding that anti-suit in general infringes ordre public is an important instruction viz future relationships with UK court orders following Brexit (should the UK not follow EU civil procedure).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

Inaugural Lecture by Alex Mills (UCL): The Privatisation of Private (and) International Law

Conflictoflaws - mar, 01/21/2020 - 12:49

Speaker: Professor Alex Mills (Faculty of Laws, UCL)

Chair: Professor Campbell McLachlan QC (Victoria University Wellington)

Date and time: 06 February 2020, 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Location: Bentham House, UCL Laws, London, WC1H 0EG, United Kingdom

Abstract

The boundary between public and private legal relations at the international level has become increasingly fluid. State actors engage internationally in private commercial activity, while the privatisation of traditional governmental functions has led to private actors exercising ostensibly public authority, and accelerated the development of a hybridised public-private international investment law. Privatisation as a general phenomenon is much debated, although there has been relatively little focus on the governmental functions which are perhaps of most interest to lawyers – law making, law enforcement, and dispute resolution. This lecture will argue that modern legal developments in the context of private law and cross-border private legal relations can be usefully analysed as two distinct forms of privatisation. First, privatisation of the allocative functions of public and private international law, in respect of both institutional and substantive aspects of regulation. Second, privatisation of the institutional and substantive regulation of private legal relationships themselves, through arbitration and the recognition of non-state law. Analysing these developments through the lens of privatisation highlights a number of important critical questions which deserve greater consideration.

About the Speaker

Alex Mills is Professor of Public and Private International Law in the Faculty of Laws, University College London. His research encompasses a range of foundational issues across public and private international law, as well as international investment law and commercial arbitration. He has degrees in Philosophy and Law from the University of Sydney, and an LLM and PhD (awarded the Yorke Prize) from the University of Cambridge, where he also taught before joining UCL. His publications include ‘Party Autonomy in Private International Law’ (CUP, 2018), ‘The Confluence of Public and Private International Law’ (CUP, 2009), and (co-authored) ‘Cheshire North and Fawcett’s Private International Law’ (OUP, 2017). He was awarded the American Society of International Law’s Private International Law Prize in 2010, has Directed Studies in Private International Law at the Hague Academy of International Law, and is a member of Blackstone Chambers Academic Advisory Panel and the Editorial Board of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

The organisors request you to consult for more information and to register for the event here.

Development of Private International Law in the UK post Brexit.

Conflictoflaws - lun, 01/20/2020 - 14:25

The event is free to attend. The following URL provides full information and registration details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-development-of-private-international-law-in-the-uk-post-brexit-tickets-89779245139

Date: Friday 28th February 2020, 9am-5pm.

Location: Queen Mary University of London, 67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Room 3.1, London, WC2A 3JB

This is the first of four public AHRC workshops on Private International Law after Brexit from global, European, Commonwealth and intra-UK perspectives.

About the event

With Brexit having taken place on 31 January 2020 this workshop comes at an ideal time to focus on how private international law in the UK should develop once the implementation period for the UK leaving the EU has finished (which under UK law should be on 31 December 2020). Several eminent speakers will address the issue from four key perspectives:

  • Global – Professor Trevor Hartley LSE
  • Commonwealth – Professor David McClean, University of Sheffield
  • EU/EEA – Michael Wilderspin – Commission Legal Service
  • Intra-UK – Dr Kirsty Hood QC, Faculty of Advocates, Scotland

There will be a discussant for each perspective and then plenty of time for questions and comments after each main speaker.

The workshop will also hear from the organisers of this AHRC Research Network:

  • Professor Paul Beaumont, University of Stirling
  • Dr Mihail Danov, University of Exeter (who will report on his English pilot study)

Furthermore some empirical research findings will be shared by:

  • Professor Sophia Tang, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Jayne Holliday, University of Stirling

Those interested in advising on the development of this Research Network are welcome to stay for an informal meeting to be held at the end of the workshop between 5.10 and 6pm.

This event is free and open to all but registration is required because spaces are limited.

Professor Paul Beaumont and Dr Mihail Danov would like to thank Queen Mary University of London for their wonderful support by hosting the first three workshops and also AHRC for funding the Research Network.

Future Events

The second and third workshop of this series will be held on Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd April 2020 in the same location, Queen Mary University of London, Room 3.1, 67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Field, London and will focus on the future development of private international law in the UK in relation to commercial law (April 1) and family law (April 2).

The final workshop will be held on Thursday 2nd July 2020. This will be held as a joint venture with the Journal of Private International Law and will be held at Reed Smith, Broadgate Tower, 20 Primrose Street, EC2A 2RS

Tickets for these events will be available shortly.

Anti-suit and arbitration. Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al.

GAVC - lun, 01/20/2020 - 08:08

[2019] EWHC 3568 (Comm) Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. is the very swift follow-up to [2019] EWHC 2729 (Comm) which I review here. I flag the case mostly for:

  • at 8, Baker J siding with Males J (and myself) per Nori Holding, that West Tankers is still good authority following Brussels Ia despite Wathelet AG’s suggestions in Gazprom;
  • the brief reference at 9, as to whether under Rome I injunctive relief for threat of contractual breach is covered by lex fori or lex contractus. Baker J concludes that issue simply by reminding us that Rome I does not apply to arbitration agreements;
  • At 47 ff the discussion of choice of law in spite of no express clause having been included to that effect. Specifically, with reference to Sulamerica, whether choice of seat may imply choice of law.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1. 

White Paper on Smart Derivatives Contract

Conflictoflaws - sam, 01/18/2020 - 20:16

by Matthias Lehmann

Smart contracts and the conflict of laws is a widely discussed topic today (see for instance the post by Giesela Rühl). A new contribution to this debate comes from ISDA, the International Swaps and Derivatives, in collaboration with the Singapore Academy of Law and leading law firms. Also involved is the provider of an existing smart contract platform (Corda), which guarantees the paper’s practical relevance. The analysis focuses on a potential smart derivative contract to be implemented on Corda. 

The authors of the paper take the view that a court in Singapore and the UK would have little difficulties in determining the law governing such a contract – it would simply be the one chosen in the derivatives master agreement. The same goes for the choice of the competent court. In this context, it is important to note that only B2B transactions are considered, with no consumer contracts being involved. The authors also see little risk for the intervention of public policy rules.

Collateralised derivative transactions, which are of utmost practical importance, are more problematic to the extent that the collateral is governed by the lex rei sitae. But the paper also sees a way out here: The collateral could be represented by a token (through so-called tokenisation). Given that tokens have no real geographic location, the law applicable to the token could be determined again by a choice of the parties. 

The paper even suggests an innovative way to avoid the need for enforcement: The parties could agree that the “notary” of the platform must implement any judgment rendered by the chosen court. In this way, the need to apply for cross-border recognition and enforcement in the country in which the platform is established would fall away. 

Whether this proposal works in practice remains to be seen. One may reasonably fret that the platform will not enjoy complete immunity from the country in which it is established. As long as the courts of this country are liberal, there is however little reason for fear. The Singapore High Court has already shown its readiness to extending property protection to the holders of cryptocurrencies. The country could thus provide a safe haven for the operation of a smart derivatives platform, but that does not exclude the continuing power of its courts to intervene and the possible application of national law, e.g. in case of an insolvency of the platform provider.

Registration for Pax Moot 2020 is now open!

Conflictoflaws - ven, 01/17/2020 - 09:11

Teams are invited to register for the PAX Moot, Asser Round 2020. Registration will be possible until March 30th. However we do advise teams to register as soon as possible. The registration fee is 100 Euros per team.

The moot court competition comprises a written round and oral round. For the written round each team will be required to submit a written assignment as requested by the case (for details, see Rules and Procedures). The oral round will be scheduled as a 2 full-day event on 28-29 May 2020, preceded by a welcoming event for all teams on 27 May (evening). The first day of the competition (general rounds) will be held at the University of Antwerp. On the second day, the participating teams will be invited to the EU Commission in Brussels, where the semi-finals and final rounds will be held.

This year, we have invited Alex Layton QC, a leading specialist in private international law, to draft the case and be a member of the final panel of the oral round.

The organising team hopes that this year’s competition will attract many teams from EU Member States and beyond! Besides the collective prizes for best team and best written submission, one member of the final winning team will be given the “Best Speaker Award” of the moot, and our partner, Herbert Smith Freehills, has graciously invited the next recipient of that award for an internship in its Paris office!

For further information please visit www.paxmoot.com, or email us at info@paxmoot.com.

Sincerely,

PAX Moot Team

Save the date: Conference on ‘Regulation BI-bis: a standard for free circulation of judgments and mutual trust in the EU’, 24 September 2020.

Conflictoflaws - ven, 01/17/2020 - 08:21

The Conference represents the final event of the JUDGTRUST Project (2018-2020), funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union (2014-2020). The objective of the Project is to identify best practices and to provide guidelines in the interpretation and application of Regulation 1215/2012 (BI-bis). The JUDGTRUST Project is coordinated by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and carried out in partnership with the University of Hamburg, the University of Antwerp and the Internationaal Juridisch Instituut.

The Conference will host panels on, inter alia, the scope of application, relationship with other instruments, rules on jurisdiction, provisional measures, as well as enforcement and recognition of foreign judgments. Additionally, the key findings from the National Reports of the EU Member States will be presented. It aims to bring together academics, policy makers and legal practitioners. It will take place on Thursday 24 September 2020 at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, The Hague. 

More information will be provided on the Project website (https://www.asser.nl/judgtrust) shortly.

Ships classification and certification agencies: The immunity ship ain’t sailing according to Szpunar AG in Rina.

GAVC - jeu, 01/16/2020 - 01:01

In C‑641/18 Szpunar AG opined on Tuesday and notes that the request of the referring court brings to mind the current debate about the influence of human rights on private international law. It seeks to ascertain whether and, if so, to what extent the scope of ‘civil and commercial’ in the Brussels Ia Regulation may be influenced by the interest in ensuring access to the courts, a right guaranteed by Article 47 Charter.

(The case itself is subject to Brussels I which did not yet include ‘acta iure imperii’. As the AG notes at 56, this is merely a clarification following CJEU interpretation of the previous concept.

Relatives of the victims, along with survivors of the sinking of the Al Salam Boccaccio ’98, a ship sailing under the flag of the Republic of Panama, which happened in 2006 on the Red Sea and caused the loss of more than a thousand lives, have brought an action before the District Court, Genoa against the companies Rina SpA et Ente Registro Italiano Navale. Claimants argue that the defendant’s certification and classification activities, the decisions they took and the instructions they gave, are to blame for the ship’s lack of stability and its lack of safety at sea, which are the causes of its sinking.

Defendants plead immunity from jurisdiction. They state that they are being sued in respect of certification and classification activities which they carried out as delegates of a foreign sovereign State, namely the Republic of Panama. They argue activities in question were a manifestation of the sovereign power of the foreign State and the defendants carried them out on behalf of and in the interests of that State.

The AG first of all reviews how the principle of customary international law concerning the jurisdictional immunity of States relates to the scope ratione materiae of Brussels Ia. He starts his analysis noting that in the absence of codification at international level (international conventions on the issue not having met with great success), the principle concerning the jurisdictional immunity of States remains to a large extent governed by customary international law.

There is little use in quoting large sections of the Opinion verbatim so please do refer to the actual text: the AG opines (referring ia to C-154/11 Mahamdia) that it is unnecessary to refer to the principle of customary international law concerning State immunity from jurisdiction when considering the scope ratione materiae of Brussels Ia. Those principles he suggests do play a role when it comes to enforcing any exercise of such jurisdiction against the will of the party concerned.

At 46: ‘the distinction between disputes which are civil or commercial matters and those which are not must be drawn by reference to the independent criteria of EU law identified by the Court in its case-law. Consequently, an act performed in the exercise of State authority (acta iure imperii) from the perspective of the law relating to immunity, is not necessarily the same as an act performed in the exercise of State authority according to the independent criteria of EU law.’ (The latter as readers of the blog will know, are not always clearly expressed; see ia my review of Buak).

In the second place, the AG then considers whether an action for damages brought against private-law entities concerning their classification and/or certification activities falls within the scope of BIa. At 83, following extensive review of the case-law (almost all of which I also reviewed on the blog and for earlier cases, in Chapter 2 of the Handbook), the AG opines that neither the fact that the acts in question were performed on behalf of and in the interests of the delegating State nor the possibility of the State’s incurring liability for harm caused by those acts, in itself conclusively characterises those acts as ones performed in the exercise of powers falling outside the scope of the ordinary legal rules applicable to relationships between private individuals. 814/79 Rüffer also makes a non-conclusive appearance.

At 95 then follows the core of the factual assessment: defendants’ role is limited to carrying out checks in accordance with a pre-defined regulatory framework. If, following the revocation of a certificate, a ship is no longer able to sail, that is because of the sanction which, as the defendants admitted at the hearing, is imposed by Panama law. Not acta iure imperii – the issue falls under Brussels Ia.

Finally, must as a result of a plea of immunity from jurisdiction a national court decline to exercise the jurisdiction which it ordinarily derives from the Regulation? In a section which will be interesting to public international lawyers, the AG reviews international and EU law (particularly Directive 2009/15) and concludes that there is no principle in international law which grants immunity to certification agencies in cases such as the one at hand.

To complete the analysis, the AG opines that should the Court disagree with his views on immunity, the national court’s views on jurisdiction would not be impacted by the right to court guarantees of the Charter, for there is no suggestion at all that the victims would not have proper access to Panamian courts for their action.

Note of course that the Opinion does not address lex causae.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.1.1.

 

Conference Report: Conflict of Laws 4.0 (Münster, Germany)

Conflictoflaws - mar, 01/14/2020 - 22:21

Written by Prof. Dr. Stefan Arnold, University of Münster

Digitization, Artificial Intelligence and the blockchain technology are core elements of a historic transformation of modern society. Such transformations necessarily challenge traditional legal concepts. Hitherto, the academic discourse is much more intense in the area of substantial private law than it is in the area of Private International Law. Thus, a conference on the specific challenges of Artificial Intelligence and Digitization for Private International Law was long overdue. Stefan Arnold and Gerald Mäsch of the Institute of International Business Law (WWU Münster) organized a conference with that specific focus on November 8th at Münster University. The title of the conference was »Conflict of laws 4.0: Artificial Intelligence, smart contracts and bitcoins as challenges for Private International Law«. Around a hundred legal scholars, practitioners, doctoral candidates and students attended the conference.

The first speaker, Wolfgang Prinz of Fraunhofer Institute and Aachen University, provided insight into the necessary technical background. His presentation made clear that blockchain technology is already a key factor in international contracting, as e.g. in agricultural crop insurance policies. This introduction into complex digital processes to a largely non-tech-expert audience helped kick off the first round of vivid discussion. 

Michael Stürner of Konstanz University devoted his presentation to smart contracts and their role in applying the Rome I Regulation. After raising the question of a specific lex digitalis, he focused on the scope of the Regulation with regard to qualification, choice of law and the objective connecting factors. While he concluded that the respective contracts can mainly be treated on the basis of the Rome I Regulation, he also took a quick glance on subsequent questions in terms of virtual securities and the statute of form.

In the third presentation, Stefan Arnold of Münster University explored the issues Artificial Intelligence raises concerning party autonomy and choice of law. At the beginning of his presentation, he emphasized that these questions are closely related to the different levels of AI and their (lack of) legal capacity: As long as machines act as simple executors of human will, one should establish a normative attribution to the human being in question. For the cases in which the AI exceeds this dependency, Arnold claimed there was no answer in the Rome I Regulation, leaving the way open for the national rules, primarily Art. 5 II EGBGB. Finally, he discussed possibilities de lege ferenda such as applying the law of the country of effect and future gateways for the ordre public.

Jan Lüttringhaus of Hannover University presented about questions of insurance and liability in the context of Private International Law. In order to underline the importance of this topic, he referred to a provision in the usual insurance conditions presupposing the application of German national law. In a first step, he examined the international civil procedure law of the Brussels I bis Regulation as well as potential difficulties with state immunity. The second part of his lecture was dedicated to the problem of determining the applicable law in situations that feature a decentralization of injury and damage.

In the following presentation, Gerald Mäsch of Münster University proposed a solution for finding the applicable law to Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). When legal practitioners try to determine which law applies, they usually resort to the traditional rules of domicile and establishment. Since DAOs have neither of the two, it cannot be subjected to the law of a specific nation by these two approaches. Leaving the international corporate law behind, Mäsch called for a return to the basics: If there is no primary choice of law, one should plainly refer back to the most significant relationship as stated by Savigny. Acknowledging the regular lack of publicity, he nonetheless insisted that this solution answered the parties’ needs at the best possible rate.

Bettina Heiderhoff of Münster University presented on how questions of liability can be solved in the context of autonomous systems. She started her presentation by raising the question whether autonomous systems could simply fall into the scope of the Product Liability Directive. Following up, the speaker focused on new fund and insurance systems and the deriving problems with regard to conflict of laws. She expanded upon Art. 5 of the Rome II Regulation and its applicability on autonomous systems, emphasizing the legislator’s intention behind the respective rules. 

In the following presentation, Matthias Lehmann of Bonn University examined the interaction between blockchain, bitcoin and international financial market law. After a short introduction into the basics of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), he shed light onto problems in international banking supervision and how they could be solved by implementing DLT-based solutions. He closed with a plea for common international regulations regarding cryptocurrencies.

Concluding remarks from a practitioners’ point of view were made by Ruth-Maria Bousonville and Marc Salevic from Pinsent Masons LLP. The speakers shared their perspective on the topics that had been raised by their predecessors and how practitioners deal with these questions in creating solutions for their clients. 

Humboldt-University Berlin: PhD positions (fellowships) for private (international) lawyers

Conflictoflaws - mar, 01/14/2020 - 17:58

The Graduate Programm “Dynamic Integration” at the Faculty of Law of Humboldt-University Berlin wishes to fill two PhD positions (fellowships), funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). Applications from private (international) lawyers are especially welcomed.

For more information see here.

Opinion of Advocate General Szpunar in the case C-641/18 – Rina

Conflictoflaws - mar, 01/14/2020 - 16:52

Advocate General Szpunar proposes that the Court should rule that the victims of the sinking of a ship flying the Panamanian flag can bring an action for damages under the Brussels I Regulation as a “civil and commercial matter” in the sense of Article 1 before the Italian courts against the Italian bodies which classified and certified that ship.

At para. 47, the Opinion deals with the effect of customary international law on the scope ratione materiae of the Brussels I Regulation and holds:

[t]he EU legislature might have drawn inspiration from customary international law and taken general guidance from it in so far as concerns the distinction between acta iure imperii and acta iure gestionis. However, I am of the opinion that it did not have recourse to the concept of immunity from jurisdiction in order to define precisely the reach of EU rules in the area of judicial cooperation in civil matters having cross-border implications or, in particular, the material scope of Regulation No 44/2001.

At para. 59, the Opinion explains the concept of “civil and commercial matters” abstractly with a view to previous case law and holds:

[t]he Court has repeatedly held that it is the exercise of public powers by one of the parties to the case, inasmuch as it exercises powers falling outside the scope of the ordinary legal rules applicable to relationships between private individuals, that excludes such a case from civil and commercial matters within the meaning of Article 1(1) of that regulation. On that basis the Court has already held that an action whereby a tax authority of one Member State claims damages for loss caused by a tortious conspiracy to commit value added tax (VAT) fraud in that Member State falls within the concept of ‘civil and commercial matters’, provided that the tax authority is in the same position as a person governed by private law in the action in question. I infer from this that, in order to determine whether or not Regulation No 44/2001 is applicable in a case, it is not necessary to focus upon the field or area to which belongs the act in respect of which liability is alleged; it is necessary to consider whether that act proceeds from the exercise of public powers

As an interim conclusion, the Opinion states, at paras. 99 et seq.:

99. …[t]he mere fact that the defendants carried out the acts at issue upon delegation from a State does not in itself mean that the dispute in which liability for those acts is alleged falls outside the scope ratione materiae of Regulation No 44/2001. Secondly, the fact that those acts were carried out on behalf of, and in the interests of the delegating State does not have that effect either. Thirdly and last, the fact that those operations were carried out in performance of international obligations of the delegating State in no way calls the foregoing conclusions into question.

100. Nevertheless, whenever recourse is had to public powers when carrying out acts, Regulation No 44/2001 will not as a result apply ratione materiae in a dispute in which liability for those acts is alleged. Given the range of powers exercised by the defendants in carrying out the classification and certification of the Al Salam Boccaccio ’98, those operations cannot be regarded as proceeding from the exercise of public powers.

101.  In light of the foregoing, it should be held that Article 1(1) of Regulation No 44/2001 is to be interpreted as meaning that an action for damages brought against private-law bodies concerning classification and certification activities carried out by those bodies upon delegation from a third State, on behalf of and in the interests of that State, falls within the concept of ‘civil and commercial matters’ within the meaning of that provision.

After rejecting jurisdictional immunity for the defendants, the Advocate General concluded, at para. 155:

Article 1(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters is to be interpreted as meaning that an action for damages brought against private-law bodies in respect of classification and certification activities carried out by those bodies as delegates of a third State, on behalf of that State and in its interests, falls within the concept of ‘civil and commercial matters’ within the meaning of that provision.

The principle of customary international law concerning the jurisdictional immunity of States does not preclude the application of Regulation No 44/2001 in proceedings relating to such an action.

The Opinion can be found here.

Suing the Chief of the Israeli General Staff in The Netherlands. Ismail Ziada v Benjamin Gantz tests Dutch forum necessitatis rules.

GAVC - mar, 01/14/2020 - 01:01

Since the news broke in Mid-September of a Dutch claimant of Palestinian descent, suing former Chief of the General Staff Benjamin Gantz in The Netherlands, I have regularly checked ECLI NL for any kind of judgment. So far to no avail. I report the case now summarily, for it will be good to have a judgment (presumably first interlocutory: on the jurisdiction issue) to chew on.

The claim invokes the Dutch forum necessitatis rule (Article 9 CPR; other European States have similar rules), often also known as ‘universal jurisdiction’ however clearly the rule has its constraints. Claimant’s lawyer, Meester Liesbeth Zegveld, argues the application of the rule here. The piece includes assessment of sovereign immunity, and the involvement of Article 6 ECHR. Its outcome will also play a role in issues of corporate social responsibility and jurisdiction.

Clearly the moment I have a court opinion I shall post more.

Geert.

 

Just released: Volume 24 of the Judges’ Newsletter on International Child Protection

Conflictoflaws - lun, 01/13/2020 - 18:13

Written by Frédéric Breger, Legal Officer at the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH)

Volume 24 of the Judges’ Newsletter, the HCCH publication on international child protection, is now available on the HCCH website! This Volume features a Special Focus on “Urgent Measures of Protection” as provided for under Article 11 of the HCCH 1996 Child Protection Convention. Article 11 gives jurisdiction to the authorities of a Contracting Party where the child is found present – albeit not habitually resident – to take measures of protection for that child in cases of urgency. You will find in particular contributions from judges on case law rendered under Article 11 of the 1996 HCCH Child Protection Convention in various jurisdictions. This Volume is available in English only at the moment; the French version will be published in due course.

The HCCH news item is available here.

The mooted Flemish ban on fireworks displays. A concise primer (with referral) on exhaustion, property rights (ECHR) and the internal market (TFEU).

GAVC - lun, 01/13/2020 - 08:08

Anyone short of exam essay Qs, consider the planned Flemish ban (with room for local, event-related exceptions) on fireworks displays. Akin to the issues in Ivory Ban or pet collars, at the core of the legal analysis is the legality of use restrictions on goods lawfully marketed in other Member States (see also my brief review of Amsterdam’s booze bikes here).

The exhaustive effect or not of EU secondary law will have to be discussed, as will Article 34 TFEU (including consultation and commissioned research issues and of course proportionality), and indeed A1P1 (Article 1, first Protocol) ECHR.

(For a recent more locally relevant issue, see the Supreme Court’s (Raad van State) December 2019 annulment of an Antwerp highway code rule banning the use of quads and introducing a strict exemption policy).

Geert.

 

 

The SHAPE v Supreme Litigation: The Interaction of Public and Private International Law Jurisdictional Rules

Conflictoflaws - lun, 01/13/2020 - 07:31

Written by Dr Rishi Gulati, Barrister, Victorian Bar, Australia; LSE Fellow in Law, London School of Economics

The interaction between public and private international law is becoming more and more manifest. There is no better example of this interaction than the Shape v Supreme litigation ongoing before Dutch courts, with the most recent decision in this dispute rendered in December 2019 in Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (“SHAPE”) et al v Supreme Site Service GmbH et al (Supreme), COURT OF APPEAL OF ‘s-HERTOGENBOSCH, Case No. 200/216/570/01, Ruling of 10 December 2019 (the ‘CoA Decision’). I first provide a summary of the relevant facts. Second, a brief outline of the current status of the litigation is provided. Third, I make some observations on how public and private international law interact in this dispute. 

1 Background to the litigation

In 2015, the Supreme group of entities (a private actor) brought proceedings (the ‘Main Proceedings’) against two entities belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (‘NATO’) (a public international organisation) before a Dutch district court for alleged non-payments under certain contracts entered into between the parties for the supply of fuel (CoA Decision, para 6.1.12). The NATO entities against whom the claims were brought in question were Shape (headquartered in Belgium) and Allied Joint Force Command Headquarters Brunssum (JFCB) (having its registered office in the Netherlands). JFCB was acting on behalf of Shape and concluded certain contracts (called BOAs) with Supreme regarding the supply of fuel to SHAPE for NATO’s mission in Afghanistan carried out for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) created pursuant to a Chapter VII Security Council Resolution following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States (CoA Decision, para 6.1.8). While the payment for the fuels supplied by Supreme on the basis of the BOAs was made subsequently by the individual states involved in the operations in Afghanistan, ‘JFCB itself also purchased from Supreme. JFCB paid Supreme from a joint NATO budget. The prices of fuel were variable. Monitoring by JFCB took place…’ (CoA Decision, para 6.1.9. The applicable law of the BOAs was Dutch law but no choice of forum clause was included (CoA Decision, para 6.1.9). There was no provision for arbitration made in the BoAs (CoA Decision, para 6.1.14.1). However, pursuant to a later Escrow Agreement concluded between the parties, upon the expiry of the BoAs, Supreme could submit any residual claim it had on the basis of the BOAs to a mechanism known as the Release of Funds Working Group (‘RFWG’). Pursuant to that agreement, an escro account was also created in Belgium. The RFWG comprises of persons affiliated with JFCB and SHAPE, in other words, NATO’s representatives (CoA Decision, para 6.1.10). Supreme invoked the jurisdiction of Dutch courts for alleged non-payment under the BOAs. The NATO entities asserted immunities based on their status as international organisations (‘IOs’) and succeeded  before the CoA meaning that the merits of Supreme’s claims has not been tested before an independent arbiter yet (more on this at 2). 

In a second procedure, presumably to protect its interests, Supreme also levied an interim garnishee order targeting Shape’s escrow account in Belgium (the ‘Attachment Proceedings’) against which Shape appealed (see here for a comment on this issue). The Attachment Proceedings are presently before the Dutch Supreme Court where Shape argued amongst other things, that Dutch courts did not possess the jurisdiction to determine the Attachment Proceedings asserting immunities from execution as an IO (see an automated translation of the Supreme Court’s decision here (of course, no guarantees of accuracy of translation can be made)). The Dutch Supreme Court made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice (‘CJEU’) (case C-186/19). It is this case where questions of European private international law have become immediately relevant. Amongst other issues referred, the threshold question before the CJEU is:

Must Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (recast) (OJ 2012 L 351, p. 1 [Brussels Recast] be interpreted as meaning that a matter such as that at issue in the present case, in which an international organisation brings an action to (i) lift an interim garnishee order levied in another Member State by the opposing party, and (ii) prohibit the opposing party from levying, on the same grounds, an interim garnishee order in the future and from basing those actions on immunity of execution, must be wholly or partially considered to be a civil or commercial matter as referred to in Article 1(1) of the Brussels I Regulation (recast)? 

Whether the claims pertinent to the Attachment Proceedings constitute civil and commercial matters within the meaning of Article 1 of the Brussels Recast is a question of much importance. If it cannot be characterised as civil and commercial, then the Brussels regime cannot be applied and civil jurisdiction will not exist.  If jurisdiction under the Brussels Recast does not exist, then questions of IO immunities from enforcement become irrelevant at least in an EU member state. The CJEU has not yet ruled on this reference. 

2 The outcome so far 

Thus far, the dispute has focused on questions of jurisdiction and IO immunities. These issues arise in somewhat different senses in both sets of proceedings. 

The Main Proceedings

Shape and JFCB argue that Dutch courts lack the jurisdiction in public international law to determine the claims brought by Supreme as NATO possesses immunities given its status as an IO (CoA Decision, para 6.1.13). The rules and problems with the law on IO immunities have been much discussed, including by this author in this very forum. Two things need noting. First, in theory at least, the immunities of IOs such as NATO are delimited by the concept of ‘functionalism’ – IOs can only possess those immunities that are necessary to protect its functional independence. And second, if an IO does not provide for a ‘reasonable alternative means’ of dispute resolution, then national courts can breach IO immunities to ensure access to justice. According to the district court, as the NATO entities had not provided a reasonable alternative means of dispute resolution to Supreme, the former’s immunities could be breached. The CoA summarised the district court’s decision on this point as follows (CoA Decision, para 6.1.14): 

[T]he lack of a dispute settlement mechanism in the BOAs, while a petition to the International Chamber of Commerce was agreed in a similar BOA agreed with another supplier, makes the claim of an impermissible violation of the right to a fair trial justified. The above applies unless it must be ruled that the alternatives available to Supreme comply with the standard in the Waite and Kennedy judgments: there must be “reasonable means to protest effectively rights”. The District Court concludes that on the basis of the arguments put forward by the parties and on the basis of the documents submitted, it cannot be ruled that a reasonable alternative judicial process is available.

The CoA disagreed with the district court. It said that this was not the type of case where Shape and JFCB’s immunities could be breached even if there was a complete lack of a ‘reasonable alternative means’ available to Supreme (CoA Decision, para 6.7.8 and 6.7.9.1). This aspect of the CoA’s Decision was made possible because of the convoluted jurisprudence of the European Court of Human rights where that court has failed to provide precise guidance as to when exactly IO immunities can be breached for the lack of a ‘reasonable alternative means’, thereby giving national courts considerable leeway. The CoA went on to further find that in any event, Supreme had alternative remedies: it could bring suit against the individual states part of the ISAF action to recover its alleged outstanding payments (CoA Decision, para 6.8.1); and could have recourse to the RFWG (CoA Decision, para 6.8.4). This can hardly be said to  constitute a ‘reasonable alternative means’ for Supreme would have to raise claims before the courts of multiple states in question creating a risk of parallel and inconsistent judgments; the claims against a key defendant (the NATO entities) remain unaddressed; and the RFWG comprises representatives of the defendant completely lacking in objective independence. Perhaps the CoA’s decision was driven by the fact that Supreme is a sophisticated commercial party who had voluntarily entered into the BOAs where the standards of a fair trial in the circumstances can be arguably less exacting (CoA Decision, para 6.8.3).

On the scope of Shape’s and JFCB’s functional immunities, the CoA said that ‘if immunity is claimed by SHAPE and JFCB in respect of (their) official activities, that immunity must be granted to them in absolute terms’ (CoA Decision, para 6.7.9.1). It went on to find:

The purchase of fuels in relation to the ISAF activities, to be supplied in the relevant area of operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is directly related to the fulfilment of the task of SHAPE and JFCB within the framework of ISAF, so full functional immunity exists. The fact that Supreme had and has a commercial contract does not change the context of the supplies. The same applies to the position that individual countries could not invoke immunity from jurisdiction in the context of purchasing fuel. What’s more, even if individual countries – as the Court of Appeal understands for the time being before their own national courts – could not invoke immunity, this does not prevent the adoption of immunity from jurisdiction by SHAPE and JFCB as international organisations that, in concrete terms, are carrying out an operation on the basis of a resolution of the United Nations Security Council CoA Decision, para 6.7.9.2).

Acknowledging that determining the scope of an IO’s functional immunity is no easy task, the CoA’s reasoning is somewhat surprising. The dispute at hand is a contractual dispute pertaining to alleged non-payment under the BOAs. One may ask the question as to why a classical commercial transaction should attract functional immunity? Indeed, other IOs (international financial institutions) have included express waiver provisions in their treaty arrangements where no immunities exist in respect of business relationships between an IO and third parties (see comments on the Jam v IFC litigation ongoing in United States courts by this author here). While NATO is not a financial institution, it should nevertheless be closely inquired as to why NATO should possess immunities in respect of purely commercial contracts it enters into. This is especially the case as the CoA found that the NATO entities in question did not possess any treaty based immunities (CoA Decision, para 6.6.7), and upheld its functional immunities based on customary international law only (CoA Decision, para  6.7.1), a highly contested issue (see M Wood, ‘Do International Organizations Enjoy Immunity Under Customary International Law?’ (2013) 10 IOLR 2). It is likely that the CoA Decision would be appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court and any further analysis must await a final outcome.

The Attachment Proceedings

The threshold question in the Attachment Proceedings is whether Dutch courts possess civil jurisdiction under the Brussels Recast to determine the issues in that particular case. If the claim is not considered civil and commercial within the meaning of Article 1 of the Brussels Recast, then no jurisdiction exists under the rules of private international law and the claim comes to an end, with the issue of immunities against enforcement raised by the NATO entities becoming superfluous. This is because if a power to adjudicate does not exist, then the question on the limitations to its exercise due to any immunities obviously becomes irrelevant. Perhaps more crucially, after the CoA Decision, the ongoing relevance of the Attachment Proceedings has been questioned. As has been noted here:

At the public hearing in C-186/19 held in Luxembourg on 12 December, the CJEU could not hide its surprise when told by the parties that the Dutch Appellate Court had granted immunity of jurisdiction to Shape and JCFB. The judges and AG wondered whether a reply to the preliminary reference would still be of any use. One should take into account that the main point at the hearing was whether the “civil or commercial” nature of the proceedings for interim measures should be assessed in the light of the proceedings on the merits (to which interim measures are ancillary, or whether the analysis should solely address the interim relief measures themselves.

Given that a Supreme Court appeal may still be filed in the Main Proceeding potentially reversing the CoA Decision, the CJEU’s preliminary ruling could still be of practical relevance.  In any event, in light of the conceptual importance of the central question regarding the scope of the Brussels Recast being considered in the Attachment Proceeding, any future preliminary ruling by the CJEU is of much significance for European private international law. Summarising the CJEU’s approach to the question at hand, the Dutch Supreme Court said:

The concept of civil and commercial matters is an autonomous concept of European Union law, which must be interpreted in the light of the purpose and system of the Brussels I-bis Regulation and the general principles arising from the national legal systems of the Member States.  In order to determine whether a case is a civil or commercial matter, the nature of the legal relationship between the parties to the dispute or the subject of the dispute must be examined.  Disputes between a public authority and a person governed by private law may also fall under the concept of civil and commercial matters, but this is not the case when the public authority acts in the exercise of public authority.  In order to determine whether the latter is the case, the basis of the claim brought and the rules for enforcing that claim must be examined.  For the above, see, inter alia, ECJ 12 September 2013, Case C-49/12, ECLI: EU: C: 2013: 545 (Sunico), points 33-35, ECJ 23 October 2014, Case C ? 302/13, ECLI: EU: C: 2014: 2319 (flyLal), points 26 and 30, and CJEU 9 March 2017, case C-551/15, ECLI: EU: C: 2017: 193 (Pula Parking), points 33-34 (see the automated translation of the Supreme Court’s decision cited earlier, para 4.2.1). 

There is not the space here to explore the case law mentioned above in any detail. Briefly, if the litigation was taken as a whole with the analysis taking into account the nature of the Main Proceedings as informing the characterisation of the Attachment Proceedings , there would be a close interaction between the scope of functional immunity and the concept of civil and commercial. If an excessively broad view of functional immunity is taken (as the CoA has done), then it becomes more likely that the matter will not be considered civil and commercial for the purposes of the Brussels system as the relevant claim/s can said to arise from the exercise of public authority by the defendants. However, as I said earlier, it is somewhat puzzling as to why the CoA decided to uphold the immunity of the defendants in respect of a purely commercial claim. 

However, it is worth noting that in some earlier cases, while the CJEU seem to take a relatively narrow approach to the scope of the Brussels system (CJEU Case C-29/76, Eurocontrol). More recent case law has taken a broader view.  For example, in Pula Parking, para. 39, the CJEU said ‘Article 1(1) of Regulation No 1215/2012 must be interpreted as meaning that enforcement proceedings brought by a company owned by a local authority…for the purposes of recovering an unpaid debt for parking in a public car park the operation of which has been delegated to that company by that authority, which are not in any way punitive but merely constitute consideration for a service provided, fall within the scope of that regulation’. If the true nature and subject of Supreme’s claims are considered,  it is difficult to see how they can constitute anything but civil and commercial within the meaning of the Brussels system in light of recent case law, with the issue of IO immunities a distraction from the real issues. It will be interesting to see if the CJEU consolidates its recent jurisprudence or prefers to take a narrower approach.

3 The interaction between public and private international law?

In the Main Proceedings, in so far as civil jurisdiction is concerned, already, the applicable law to the BOAs is Dutch law and Dutch national courts are perfectly suited to take jurisdiction over the underlying substantive dispute given the prevailing connecting factors. As the CoA determined that the NATO entities tacitly accepted the jurisdiction of the Dutch courts the existence of civil jurisdiction does not seem to be at issue (CoA Decision, para 6.5.3.4). Clearly, in a private international law sense, Dutch courts are manifestly the suitable forum to determine this claim. 

However, on its face, the norms on IO immunities and access to justice require balancing (being issues relevant to both public and private international law). As the district court found, if an independent mechanism to resolve a purely commercial dispute (such as an arbitration) is not offered to the claimant,    IO immunities can give way to ensure access to justice. Indeed, developments in general international law require the adoption of a reinvigorated notion of jurisdiction where access to justice concerns should militate towards the exercise of jurisdiction where not doing so would result in a denial of justice. Mills has said:

The effect of the development of principles of access to justice in international law also has implications when it comes to prohibitive rules on jurisdiction in the form of the immunities recognised in international law…Traditionally these immunities have been understood as ‘minimal’ standards for when a state may not assert jurisdiction — because the exercise of jurisdiction was understood to be a discretionary matter of state right, there was no reason why a state might not give more immunity than required under the rules of international law. The development of principles of access to justice, however, requires a state to exercise its jurisdictional powers, and perhaps to expand those jurisdictional powers as a matter of domestic law to encompass internationally permitted grounds for jurisdiction, or even to go beyond traditional territorial or nationality-based jurisdiction (A Mills, ‘Rethinking Jurisdiction in International Law’ (2014) British Yearbook of International Law, p. 219).

The Main Proceedings provide an ideal case where civil jurisdiction under private international law should latch on to public international law developments that encourage the exercise of national jurisdiction to ensure access to justice. Not only private international law should be informed by public international law developments, the latter can benefit from private international law as well. I have argued elsewhere that private international law techniques are perfectly capable of slicing regulatory authority with precision so that different values (IO independence v access to justice) can both be protected and maintained at the same time (see here). Similarly, in the Attachment Proceedings, a reinvigorated notion of adjudicative jurisdiction also demands that the private and public properly inform each other. Here, it is of importance that the mere identity of the defendant as an international public authority or the mere invocation of the pursuit of public goals (such as military action) does not detract from properly characterising the nature of a claim as civil and commercial. More specifically, any ancillary proceeding to protect a party’s rights where the underlying dispute is purely of a commercial nature ought to constitute a civil and commercial matter within the meaning of the Brussels system. Once civil jurisdiction in a private international law sense exists, then any immunities from enforcement asserted under public international law ought to give way to ensure that the judicial process cannot be frustrated by lack of enforcement at the end. It remains to be seen what approach the CJEU takes to these significant and difficult questions where the public and private converge.  

To conclude, only a decision on the merits after a full consideration of the evidence can help determine whether Supreme’s (which itself is accused of fraud) claims against Shape et al can be in fact substantiated. In the absence of an alternative remedy offered by the NATO entities, if the Dutch courts do not exercise jurisdiction, we may never know whether its claims are in fact meritorious. 

Venezuela and the Conventions of the Specialized Conferences on Private International Law (CIDIP)

Conflictoflaws - sam, 01/11/2020 - 10:03

written by Claudia Madrid Martínez

On 28 April 2017, the government of Nicolás Maduro deposited with the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), a document whereby he expressed his “irrevocable decision to denounce the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) pursuant to Article 143 thereof, thereby initiating Venezuela’s permanent withdrawal from the Organization.”

Before the two years of the transition regime that the OAS Charter provides for cases of retirement from the Organization (art. 143), on 8 February 2019, Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly and interim president of the Republic, wrote to the OAS to “reiterate and formally express the decision of the Venezuelan State to annul the supposed denunciation of the OAS Charter, for Venezuela to be able to remain a member state of the Organization.”

In its session of 9 April 2019, the OAS Permanent Council accepted the representation appointed by the National Assembly of Venezuela. However, on 27 April of the same year, the Foreign Ministry, representing Nicolás Maduro, issued a statement informing that “With the denunciation of the OAS Charter made by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on 27 April 2017, within the framework of what is contemplated in article 143; as of this date, no instrument signed and / or issued by the OAS will have a political or legal effect on the Venezuelan State and its institutions”.

This political situation has impacted the practical application of the Inter-American Conventions issued by the Specialized Conferences on Private International Law (CIDIP, by its acronym in Spanish). Remember that within the framework of CIDIP, Venezuela has ratified fourteen instruments on bills of exchange, promissory notes and bills, international commercial arbitration, letters rogatory, taking of evidence abroad, powers of attorney to be used abroad, checks, commercial companies, extraterritorial enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitral awards, information on foreign law, general rules, international child abduction, and international contracts.

For Venezuela these conventions entered into force once the requirements for their validity established in the Constitution and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties had been met. The rules of this convention are considered customary, since Venezuela has not ratified this instrument.

We must consider that the Inter-American Conventions are open conventions, which allow the accession of States not party to the OAS. Spain, for example, has accessed to conventions on letters rogatory and on information on foreign law.

Besides that, none of the Conventions has been denounced or incurred in causes of nullity or suspension, nor has there been an impossibility for performance, nor has therebeen a fundamental change in the circumstances, in the terms of articles 53, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62 of the Vienna Convention.

Although Venezuela has broken diplomatic relations with some States parties of the OAS, such relations are not indispensable for the application of Inter-American Conventions, even though in some cases cooperation is regulated through central authorities.

Another important issue is the independence of the Inter-American Conventions. Since the OAS is not an integration system, its treaties must pass the approval and ratification or accession process, because they are not covered by the characteristics of supranationality or its equivalent, such as occurs in the Andean Community or the European Union.

In any case, the situation is not clear. Article 143 of the OAS Charter provides that when “the General Secretariat receives a notice of denunciation, the present Charter shall cease to be in force with respect to the denouncing State, which shall cease to belong to the Organization after it has fulfilled the obligations arising from the present Charter”. There is no reference to the treaties approved within it.

Unfortunately, this situation has been reflected in the decisions of our courts. So far there have been two decisions of the highest court in which the Inter-American codification is set aside. In both, exequatur decisions, the Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards was not applied.

The Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice issued the first one, under number 0187 on 30 May 2019 (see also here). This decided the exequatur of an Ecuadorian divorce judgment and stated:

“Although, our Republic has signed the Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards with the Republic of Ecuador, it is no less true that, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela formalized its final retirement from the OAS, by letter of 27 April 2019, as a result, the Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards, approved in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1979, endorsed by the Department of International Law of the Organization of American States, ceased to have its effects in our country.

Therefore, this exequatur will be reviewed in the light of the Private International Law Act, according to the requirements set forth in article 53 as this is the rule of Private International Law applicable in the specific case”.

In this case, the Chamber bases its decision on the fact that in the preamble of the Inter-American Convention, the States parties to the OAS are indicated as participants and that the deposit of the instrument of ratification was made before the OAS. It should be noted that neither this nor any other Inter-American Convention has been denounced by Venezuela.

In the second decision, issued by the Social Chamber of the Supreme Court under number 0416, on 5 December 2019 (see also here) on the occasion of the exequatur of a Mexican divorce judgment, there is not even an argument as to why not apply the Inter-American Convention. In it, the Social Chamber only asserted:

“In this case, it is requested that a judgment issued by a court in the United Mexican States, a country with which the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not signed international treaties on the recognition and enforcement of judgments, be declared enforceable in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela through the exequatur procedure; for this reason, and following the priority order of the sources in the matter, the rules of Venezuelan Private International Law must be applied”.

The fundamental role of Venezuela in Inter-American codification through the work of Gonzalo Parra-Aranguren and Tatiana B. de Maekelt is not a secret to anyone. It is unfortunate that a political decision attempts to weaken the Venezuelan system of Private International Law. We insist that ignoring the Inter-American Conventions not only constitutes a breach of the obligation of the State to comply with existing treaties, but also of the internal rules that, like article 1 of the Venezuelan Private International Law Act, require the preferential application of the Public International Law rules, in particular those established in international treaties.

Spanish Supreme Court eases exequatur requirement under (2001) Brussels I.

GAVC - sam, 01/11/2020 - 01:01

A short post and thank you Laura Ruiz for flagging a ruling by the Spanish Supreme Court  in which it essentially seems to have pre-applied the Brussels Ia Regulation (1215/2012) to proceedings governed by its predecessor, Brussels I (44/2001). In particular, the Supreme Court would seem to have waived the requirement for exequatur in a proceeding governed by Brussels I. I have limited Spanish and no access to the ruling so I am relying on Laura’s post for reporting purposes.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter I, Heading 2.2.16.

 

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