Posts Tagged Arblade

Are proclamations of lois de police an absolute prerogative of the Member States? Italy’s response to Covid19 /Corona and the package travel sector.

Thank you Ennio Piovesani for signalling and reviewing one of the first conflicts-specific developments on the Corona /Covid 19 landscape. Update 28 March 2020 see the comments on and Ennio’s comprehensive response to his own post and comments, for further interesting discussion going beyond the immediate Corona context.

In an effort to safeguard the economic position of the travel sector, the Italian Government by decree has essentially frozen the travel sector’s statutory duty to reimburse travellers whose package travel has become impossible due to the pandemic. Ennio reports that the decree refers specifically to Article 9 Rome I’s overriding mandatory law provisions (earlier applied in Unamar), (in his translation): ‘“The provisions of the present article constitute overriding mandatory provisions within the meaning of Article 17 of Law of 31 May 1995, No. 218 [“Italian PIL Act”] [5, 6] and of Article 9 of Regulation (EU) No. 593/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 17 June 2008 [“Rome 1 Regulation”]”.

Ennio signals and important issue: how much leeway may be given to Member States to push their own definition of the concept of ‘lois de police’ /overriding mandatory law in light of the CJEU definition in Joined Cases C-369/96 and C-376/96 Arblade. In Brussels Ia of course the CJEU has pushed the concept of ordre public in a limited direction. Lois de police however are different from ordre public and Rome I is not Brussels Ia, and I am therefore not so pessimistic as Ennio when it comes to leaving a lot of discretion to Member States. What to me looks a touch more problematic is the relation with the package travel Directive 2015/2302 which applies to many of the travel arrangements concerned and which is the source of many of the protections for travellers.

No doubt to be continued.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8.3.

 

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Wahl AG in Unamar: national gold-plating of Union law does qualify as lois de police under the Rome Convention

I flagged earlier that regardless of the outcome for the Unamar case itself, an important consideration would be what the Court’s eventual answer will teach us about the Rome I Regulation on the applicable law for contracts (as opposed to its Treaty predecessor, the Rome Convention, which applies to the case at issue). Wahl AG’s Opinion was published this morning (as often, the English version was not yet available at the time of writing). It focuses almost entirely on the Rome Convention – for which from a legal point of view it cannot be faulted.

Belgium’s stronger protection of the agent, long held by Belgian law to be of overriding mandatory rules calibre, gold plates the regime of the Commercial Agents Directive, Directive 86/653. In Unamar, parties have agreed on Bulgarian law being applicable law (as well as incidentally on the case having to go to arbitration in Bulgaria first, attempting to circumvent Belgian law which proscribes the use of arbitration for disputes such as those at issue; the AG notes that this issue was not actually part of the questions referred by the Hof van Cassatie, hence he does not entertain it). The question therefore arises as to whether Belgian law, the lex fori, can justifiably trump Bulgarian law of which no suggestion is being made that it does not meet the minimum standard of the precited Directive.

In view of the minimum harmonisation character of the commercial agents Directive, and of there being no indication that such application leads to infringement of primary EU law, the AG suggests that Belgium courts are justified to qualify the Belgian gold-plating as being of overriding mandatory character.

As I noted when I flagged the reference, in my view the answer would have to be different under the Rome I Regulation. In the absence of a reference to gold plating in Article 9, and (arguably) its presence in Article 3, effect utile requires that the allowance for national rules of overriding mandatory nature, does not cover gold plating. However in the Rome Convention which is applicable to the case referred, EU law as mandatory law does not figure at all, and the room for overriding rules is much wider than it is in the Rome Regulation.

One will have to wait for the ECJ’s judgment to assess whether the Court itself will reveal anything on its position vis-a-vis the Regulation.

Geert.

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Unamar and lois de police in the Rome Convention /Rome I Regulation

The Court of Justice has an opportunity to clarify the exact relationship between mandatory and overriding mandatory provisions of EU and national law under the Rome Convention on applicable law to contracts (! do note that the issue is formulated differently in the Rome Regulation).

‘Overriding mandatory provisions’ is what French and Belgian private international law refers to as ‘lois de police‘, also known as lois d’application immédiate or lois d’application nécessaire. Lois de police is  the term used in the French version of the Regulation. In Arblade, which concerned free movement of services and the application of lois de police in Belgian legal practice, the Court of Justice described ‘public order legislation’ as

national provisions compliance with which has been deemed to be so crucial for the protection of the political, social or economic order in the Member State concerned as to require compliance therewith by all persons present on the national territory of that Member State and all legal relationships within that State

In the Rome I Regulation on applicable law for contracts, room is made for overriding mandatory provisions as follows:

Article 9

Overriding mandatory provisions

1. Overriding mandatory provisions are provisions the respect for which is regarded as crucial by a country for safeguarding its public interests, such as its political, social or economic organisation, to such an extent that they are applicable to any situation falling within their scope, irrespective of the law otherwise applicable to the contract under this Regulation.

2. Nothing in this Regulation shall restrict the application of the overriding mandatory provisions of the law of the forum.

3. Effect may be given to the overriding mandatory provisions of the law of the country where the obligations arising out of the contract have to be or have been performed, in so far as those overriding mandatory provisions render the performance of the contract unlawful. In considering whether to give effect to those provisions, regard shall be had to their nature and purpose and to the consequences of their application or non-application.

Under the Rome Convention, which ratione tempore applies to the contract at issue, room for manoeuvre for the forum was wider:

Article 7 – Mandatory rules

1. When applying under this Convention the law of a country, effect may be given to the mandatory rules of the law of another country with which the situation has a close connection, if and in so far as, under the law of the latter country, those rules must be applied whatever the law applicable to the contract. In considering whether to give effect to these mandatory rules, regard shall be had to their nature and purpose and to the consequences of their application or non-application.

2. Nothing in this Convention shall restrict the application of the rules of the law of the forum in a situation where they are mandatory irrespective of the law otherwise applicable to the contract.

Belgium’s stronger protection of the agent, long held by Belgian law to be of overriding mandatory rules calibre, gold plates the regime of the Commercial Agents Directive, Directive 86/653. In Unamar, parties have agreed on Bulgarian law being applicable law (as well as incidentally on the case having to go to arbitration in Bulgaria first, attempting to circumvent Belgian law which proscribes the use of arbitration for disputes such as those at issue). The question therefore arises as to whether Belgian law, the lex fori, can justifiably trump Bulgarian law of which no suggestion is being made that it does not meet the minimum standard of the precited Directive.

Were the case to be decided under the Rome I Regulation, I would argue in view of effet utile, that in the absence of a reference to gold plating in Article 9, and (arguably) its presence in Article 3, that the allowance for national rules of overriding mandatory nature, does not cover gold plating. However in the Rome Convention which is applicable to the case referred, EU law as mandatory law does not figure at all, and the room for overriding rules is much wider than it is in the Rome Regulation.

A reference of this kind is long overdue. What remains to be seen as what the Court’s eventual answer will teach us about the Rome Regulation (as opposed to the Convention).

Geert.

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