Should arbitral anti-suit injunctions follow the West Tankers fate? Lithuanian court challenges the ECJ

In Case C-536/13 Gazprom, the Lithuanian Supreme Court has challenged the ECJ to specify the limits (or not) of its findings in West Tankers – on which I have reported extensively elsewhere. The Court of Justice ruled in February 2009 on the basis of effet utile that the English courts were out of their league in issuing an anti-suit injunction, prohibiting Allianz and Generali from pursuing the case in the Italian courts (on the basis of Article 5(3)’s special jurisdictional rule for tort) and obliging them to take the case to arbitration in London.

In Gazprom, A tribunal rendered an award holding that proceedings by Lithuania in Vilnius partially breached the arbitration clause in the shareholders’ agreement between parties. The arbitral tribunal ordered the Republic of Lithuania to withdraw certain claims filed before the Lithuanian courts and to amend other claims. Gazprom is seeking enforcement of the SCC award in Lithuania. Relevant summaries of the award and of the Lithuanian proceedings are available here. The instruction of restraint contained in the award is effectively an anti-suit injunction, albeit rendered by a tribunal instead of a court. The effect of both is the same: does the West Tankers rationale therefore hold (West Tankers, readers will remember, relied on the effet utile of the Regulation to extend its reach to anti-suit injunctions in support of arbitral proceedings, notwithstanding the latter’s clear exclusion from the Regulation)?

Questions referred:

Where an arbitral tribunal issues an anti-suit injunction and thereby prohibits a party from bringing certain claims before a court of a Member State, which under the rules on jurisdiction in the Brussels I Regulation has jurisdiction to hear the civil case as to the substance, does the court of a Member State have the right to refuse to recognise such an award of the arbitral tribunal because it restricts the court’s right to determine itself whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case under the rules on jurisdiction in the Brussels I Regulation?

Should the first question be answered in the affirmative, does the same also apply where the anti-suit injunction issued by the arbitral tribunal orders a party to the proceedings to limit his claims in a case which is being heard in another Member State and the court of that Member State has jurisdiction to hear that case under the rules on jurisdiction in the Brussels I Regulation?

Can a national court, seeking to safeguard the primacy of European Union law and the full effectiveness of the Brussels I Regulation, refuse to recognise an award of an arbitral tribunal if such an award restricts the right of the national court to decide on its own jurisdiction and powers in a case which falls within the jurisdiction of the Brussels I Regulation?

No chamber has as yet been allocated to the case however I would not be surprised were it to be the Grand Chamber.

Geert.

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