Posts Tagged Exequatur

BUAK. The concept of ‘court’ (Article 267 TFEU), ‘civil and commercial’, and the social security exception in the Brussels I Recast.

I reported on Bot AG’s Opinion in  Case C-579/17 BUAK (Bauarbeiter-Urlaubs- u. Abfertigungskasse v Gradbeništvo Korana d.o.o.) here. He focussed on admissibility viz the preliminary review procedure. He left the questions on ‘civil and commercial’, and the social security exception unanswered, suggesting these are now acte claire. The Court at the end of February did answer all questions. (For completeness sake I already note that for the latter, the CJEU referred to secondary EU law to find the payment not to be one in social security).

First, on the issue of admissibility under Article 267 TFEU. In the absence of discussion by the original court on the applicability of Brussels Ia, by determining whether it is competent to issue the certificate under Article 53 Brussels Ia (replacing exequatur), the court of origin implicitly confirms that the judgment given in default which must be recognised and enforced in another Member State falls within the scope of application of that Regulation: for evidently the issue of the certificate is possible only on that condition. That procedure in those circumstances is judicial in character, with the result that a national court ruling in the context of such a procedure is entitled to refer questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling. (But only in those circumstances: for otherwise the issuing of the certificate becomes a potential anchor for stalling quick enforcement, via preliminary review to Luxembourg).

Next, on the issue of ‘civil and commercial’, some usual suspects are discussed including in particular Pula Parking. flyLAL, and Sapir (but not Fahnenbrock or Kuhn). What needs to be examined, is firstly the legal relationship between the parties to the dispute and secondly the basis and the detailed rules governing the bringing of the action.

As to the former, BUAK may be governed by public law however its calculations of wage supplements and annual leave, the formula for which is determined by decree, are superimposed upon wage negotiations which employers either negotiate entirely freely with employees or agree so on the basis of collective agreements between employers and employees to which employers freely consent. And at 54: ‘in so far as the employer’s obligation to pay the wage supplements is intrinsically linked with the rights, which are of a civil nature, of workers to annual leave pay, …BUAK’s claim and, therefore, an action for payment of that claim, is also of a civil nature.’ (Note that Eurocontrol, not too dissimilar in context (here too the root cause of the debt incurred is one of free will: whether to use certain airspace and airports or not), did lead to a finding of non-civil and commercial matters). I do not find this application straightforward at all; ‘the parties’ are the employer (Korana, a Slovenian company which had posted workers to Austria) and BUAK. Their legal relationship is removed from the contract and /or collective agreements negotiations.

As for the second criterion, the basis and the detailed rules governing the bringing of the action, unlike purely internal situations, in which BUAK may itself issue an execution title in the form of a statement of arrears, with respect to arrears relating to posted workers who do not have their habitual place of work in Austria it must initiate legal proceedings for the payment of unpaid wage supplements. However there is divergence of views between the referring court and Austria and the EC before the CJEU: the former maintains that its hands are tied and that it cannot pursue a de novo review of the application by BUAC; the latter suggest the court seized does carry out a full review of all of the elements of the application. The CJEU at 60 would seem to lean on the side of the referring court but leaves it to take the final decision.

I will turn to this again when I work on the third edition of the handbook this summer yet it is clear that the formula for deciding civil and commercial is still not entirely settled. The First chamber issued Fahnenbrock (Tizzano (Rapporteur), Rodin, Levits, Berger and Biltgen), and Kuhn (Silva de Lapuerta (Rapporteur), Bonichot, Regan, Fernlund and Rodin; the latter the only common denominator in both), which are arguably more like the Lechoritou formula, which in turn applies Eurcontrol: exclusion of certain legal actions and judicial decisions from the scope of Regulation No 1215/2012, by reason either of the legal relationships between the parties to the action or of the subject matter of the action.

The Second chamber (K. Lenaerts, A. Prechal, Toader, Rosas and Ilešič; quite a few conflicts scholars indeed including the President of the CJEU) now focuses on Sapir which was issued by the third Chamber, comprising at the time Toader (Rapporteur), Ilešič, Jarašiūnas, Ó Caoimh,  Fernlund. Toader and Ilešič are the common denominator with current judment in BUAK). Sapir has focus also firstly on the legal relationship between the parties to the dispute, but secondly the basis and the detailed rules governing the bringing of the action (not: the to my knowledge never applied criterion of ‘subject matter’ of the action).

To ponder over the summer.

Geert.

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

 

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French Supreme Court on cover by Lugano of legal fees in criminal proceedings – and the proper limits of the ordre public test.

Thank you Hélène Péroz (by now a firmly established reliable source for French PIL case-law) for alerting me to French Supreme Court Case no. 17-28.555, judgment issued late January.

The criminal courts at Geneva have condemned claimant, domiciled at France, to pay a criminal fine of 3,600.00 Swiss Francs, a well as 36,000.00 Swiss Francs towards defendant’s legal fees. The latter were incurred given that defendant in current legal proceedings had entered a civil claim in the Swiss criminal proceedings: a claim which the Geneva judge ordered to be settled through the Swiss courts in civil cases.

Upon fighting the request for exequatur, claimant first of all argues that the French courts’ acceptance of exequatur via the Lugano Convention is outside the scope of that Convention. The matter, he argues, is not civil or commercial seeing as the civil claim was not even entertained.

This of course brings one to the discussion on the scope of application of Lugano (and Brussels Ia) and the perennial difficulty of focusing on nature of the claim v nature of the underlying facts and exercised powers. Now, for civil claims brought before criminal courts there is not so much doubt per se, seeing inter alia that Article 7(3) Brussels Ia (Article 5(4) Lugano 2007) has a specific head of jurisdiction for such civil claims. Claimant’s point of argument here evidently is that this should not cover this particular claim seeing as the legal representation at issue turned out to be without purpose. Not being privy to the discussions that took place at the Geneva court, I evidently do not know the extent of discussion having taken place there (there is no trace of it in the Supreme Court judgment) however one assumes that the Geneva proceedings in theory could have dealt with the civil side of the litigation yet for a factual or legal reason eventually did not. Over and above the intensity of discussions being difficult to employ as a decisive criterion, one can also appreciate the difficulty in separating the civil from the criminal side of the argument made by defendant’s lawyers.

Of perhaps more general interest is the Supreme Court’s rebuke of the lower courts’ treatment of ordre public. Exequatur was granted because, the lower courts had held, the judge in the substantial proceedings has the sovereign right to establish costs under the relevant national procedure. This, it was suggested by these lower courts, shields it from ordre public scrutiny – a clear misunderstanding of the ordre public test. Part of the ordre public considerations had also been that the relative slide in the strength of the Swiss Franc v the Euro, and the generally higher costs of living in Switzerland, put the cost award in perspective. Moreover the judges found that there was insufficient information on the length of the proceedings in Switserland, and the complexity of the arguments. That, however, is exactly the kind of data which the judge in an exequatur assessment ough to gauge.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2n ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.2.2.

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BUAK. Bot AG on the concept of ‘court’.

In Case C-579/17 BUAK (Bauarbeiter-Urlaubs- u. Abfertigungskasse v Gradbeništvo Korana d.o.o.) Bot AG opined end October – the English version is not yet (if ever) available. The case was formulated by the referring court as one on the scope of application of the Recast – in particular the social security exception, and the ‘civil and commercial’ charachter. However the AG suggests this is a question which the referring court by now ought to be able to answer itself, given the extensive case-law of the Court. Instead, the question is turned into one on admissibility, namely whether the issuiing of a Brussels Ia cetificate with a view to enforcement, qualifies as a ‘judicial’ function required to uphold admissiability for the preliminary review procedure under Article 267 TFEU.

Under Brussels Ia, ‘The court of origin shall, at the request of any interested party, issue the certificate using the form set out in Annex I.’ The equivalent provision in Brussels I (Article 54) read ‘The court or competent authority of a Member State where a judgment was given shall issue, at the request of any interested party, a certificate using the standard form in Annex V to this Regulation.’ – emphasis added.

The Advocate General suggests that where issues relevant to Brussels I Recast (particularly: whether the issue falls at all within its scope) have not yet been discussed prior to the authority being asked to complete the Brussels I Recast form, such authority ought to be able to issue preliminary review requests to the CJEU. However (at 54) such authority qualifying as such (where it is a different authority from the court having taken the decision), ought to be exceptional: the whole point of the enforcement Title of the Regulation being speed and swiftness.

All in all an interesting turn of events.

Geert.

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

 

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ZDF: A German refusal of Polish judgment based on ordre public. (And prof Hess’ comment on same).

Many of you will have already seen (e.g. via Giesela Ruehl) the German Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH)’s refusal to recognise and enforce a Polish judgment under the Brussels I Regulation (application was made of Brussels I but the Recast on this issue has not materially changed). The BGH argued that enforcement would violate German public policy, notable freedom of speech and freedom of the press as embodied in the German Constitution.

Giesala has the necessary background. Crux of the refusal seemed to be that the Court found that to require ZDF to publish by way of a correction /clarification (a mechanism present in all Western European media laws), a text drafted by someone else as its own opinion would violate ZDF’s fundamental rights.

Refusal of course is rare and in this case, too, one can have misgivings about its application. The case however cannot be decoupled from the extremely strong sentiment for freedom of speech under German law, for obvious reasons, and the recent controversy surrounding the Polish law banning the use of the phrase ‘Polish concentration camps’.

I am very pleased to have been given approval by professor Burkhard Hess to publish the succinct comment on the case which he had sent me when the judgment was issued. I have included it below.

Geert.

European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, 2.2.16.1.1, 2.2.16.1.4

 

The German Federal Civil Court rejects the recognition of a Polish judgment in a defamation case under the Brussels I Regulation for violation of public policy

 

Burkhard Hess, Max Planck Institute Luxembourg

 

In 2013, the German broadcasting company ZDF (a public body) broadcast a film about Konzentrationcamps. In the film, it was (incorrectly) stated that Auschwitz and Majdanek were “Polish extermination camps”. Further to the protests made by the Polish embassy in Berlin, ZDF introduced the necessary changes in the film and issued an official apology. However, a former inmate of the KZ, brought a civil lawsuit in Poland claiming violation of his personality rights. With his claim he sought remedy in the form of the broadcasting company (ZDF) publishing on its Internet home page both a declaration that the history of the Polish people had been falsified in the film and a statement of apology. Ultimately, the Cracow Court of Appeal ordered the publication of the declaration on the company’s home page. While ZDF published the text on its website visibly for one month, it did not post it on its home page.

Consequently, the plaintiff sought the recognition of the Polish judgment in Germany under the Brussels I Regulation. However, the German Federal Court denied the request for recognition on the grounds that it would infringe on German public policy (article 34 No 1 Regulation (EU) 44/2001). In its ruling, the Court referred to the freedom of the press and of speech (article 5 of the Constitution) and to the case-law of the Constitutional Court. The Court stated that the facts had been incorrectly represented in the film. However, it held that, under German law, ordering a declaration of apology qualifies as ordering a declaration of opinion (Meinungsäusserung) and that, according to the fundamental freedom of free speech, nobody can be obliged to make a declaration which does not correspond to his or her own opinion (the right to reply is different as it clearly states that the reply is made by the person entitled to the reply). As a result, the Polish judgment was not recognized.

BGH, 19 July 2018, IX ZB 10/18, The judgment can be downloaded here.

To my knowledge, this is one of the very rare cases where a foreign judgment was refused recognition in Germany under article 34 no 1 of the Brussels I Regulation (now article 45 (1) (a) Brussels Ibis Regulation) because substantive public policy was infringed.

Speaking frankly, I’m not convinced by the decision. Of course, the text  which the ZDF, according to the Cracow court, had to make as its own statement represented a so-called expression of opinion. Its imposition is not permissible under German constitutional law: requiring the ZDF-television to making this expression its own would have amounted to an infringement of the freedom of speech as guaranteed by article 5 of the Constitution.

However, it corresponds to well settled principles of the recognition of judgments to substitute the operative part of the foreign judgment by a formula which comes close to it. This (positive) option is totally missing in the formalistic judgment of the Federal Civil Court. In this respect I’m wondering why the BGH did not simply order that the operative part of the Polish judgment as such was declared enforceable. My proposed wording of a declaration of enforceability would be drafted as follows: “According to the judgment of the Appellate Court of Krakow the ZDF is required to publish the following decision:…”

This solution would have solved the problem: No constitutional conflict would have arisen and the political issues would have mitigated. Seen from that perspective, the judgment appears as a missed opportunity.

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Belgian constitutional court’s ruling on vulture funds fails properly to answer arguments on the basis of EU law.

I have reported earlier on the action of MNL Capital against the 2015 Belgian Vulture Fund Act (my EN translation here), on which I have a paper here. I then reported on a related action (where MNL were joined by Yukos).

At the end of May the Belgian Constitutional Court, ruling 61/2018, rejected an MNL challenge to the Act, which was based inter alia on an alleged infringement of the Brussels I Recast Regulation: at A.23.2: MNL argued that Belgium cannot across the board reject vulture funds activities (I agree) based on an absolute ordre public argument against them: MNL suggested this entails a one-sided reading of ordre public in favour of foreign entities refusing to honour their debt.

Due in large part to the peculiarities of constitutional review in Belgium, the Court at B.15.4 looked at the argument purely from a non-discrimination point of view: creditors who have obtained a foreign judgment against a State are no better or worse off than those having obtained such ruling from a Belgian court.

In essence therefore the arguments on the basis of EU law are left entirely unanswered.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16, Heading 2.2.16.1.4.

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Vulture funds (and Yukos) fail in Round 1 against Belgian enforcement regime viz sovereign immunity. No reference to Luxemburg on compatibility of Brussels I with international law.

I have reported earlier on the action of MNL Capital against the Belgian Vulture Fund Act of 12 July 2015 (Offical Gazette here, my EN translation here), on which I have a paper here.

Thank you Quentin Declève for alerting me to the Constitutional Court’s judgment on a related action (where MNL were joined by Yukos) namely against the act of 23 August 2015 which introduced Article 1412quinquies in the Belgian Judicial Code. It is noteworthy that the action against the Act of July has not yet been decided by the Court (that case number, for the aficionados, is 6371), at the least I have not been able to locate any judgment).

As Quentin summarises, as a general rule, Article 1412 quinquies of the Belgian Judicial Code provides that assets located in Belgium that belong to a foreign State are immune from execution and cannot be subject to enforcement proceedings by creditors. Exceptions to that rule are possible if very strict conditions are met: a party wishing to seize the assets belonging to a State needs to obtain a prior authorisation from a judge. This judge will only authorise the seizure if (i) the foreign State has “expressively” and “specifically” consented to the seizure of the assets; (ii) the foreign State has specifically allocated those assets to the enforcement of the claim which gives rise to the seizure; and (iii) the assets are located in Belgium and are allocated to an economic or commercial activity.

The Court has now annulled the word ‘specifically’ but has otherwise left the Act intact. Quentin summarises how the Court found that this proviso is not part of international law on State immunity.

Now, picking up where Quentin left: part of applicants’ arguments relate to Brussels I Recast. The argument is made that Belgium with its Act re-introduces exequatur, now that is has been abolished by the Recast. Belgium’s Government seems to argue that the law relating to seizure has public order character and hence is covered by the ordre public exception of the Brussels I Recast Regulation, and that seizure in Belgium which would go against public international customary law on State immunity, along the same lines would be covered by the ordre public exception of the Recast (para A.5.2, p.6).

The Court (at B.29.1 ff, .34 ff) deals with the Brussels I arguments very very succinctly: it refers to Article 41(1) which other than the substantive requirements of title III, makes recognition and enforcement subject to the law of the State of enforcement. The Court also says enforcement is not entirely obstructed: some of the foreign entities’ assets remain subject to seizure; and there are other ways of enforcement other than seizure. Finally the Court suggests that the Brussels I Recast surely must not be applied in a way which would be incompatible with international customary law. By rejecting the suggestion for a prelimary reference to Luxembourg (suggestion made by the Belgian State, unusually), the Court clearly believes that call is not one that has to be made by Luxembourg. Pitty: that would have been an interesting reference.

Again, NML Capital’s action against the Vulture Fund Act is still ongoing, lest I have missed withdrawal. As I noted in my paper, this Act I believe is wanting on various grounds, including some related to the New York Convention and the Brussels I Recast.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16, Heading 2.2.16.1.4.

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Meroni: Mareva orders are compatible with EU law (ordre public).

For the facts of the case, and the reasoning of the AG in C-559/14 Meroni, I refer to my earlier posting. At the end of May (I am indeed still hoovering up the queue) the Court held very much alongside Kokott AG’s Opinion, I shall therefore not repeat its reasoning here. The CJEU does insist that if third parties rights are directly affected with the intensity as in the case at issue, that third person must be entitled to assert his rights before the court of origin (which English courts provide for), lest one runs the risk of the injunction being refused recognition under ordre public. As I had feared, the Court does not address the AG’s concern whether Mareva orders actually constitute a ‘judgment’ for the purposes of the Regulation.

Post Brexit, this considerable attraction of English courts in interlocutory proceedings might become a lot less real. (Like many of us, I am working on a short review of Brexit consequences for European private international law).

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, 2.2.16.1.1, 2.2.16.1.4

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