Enforcing an EU judgement in another EU Member State
Before any European Union law reform, it was near to impossible to enforce a judgement from one EU country in another EU country. Now, however, Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters contains rules on enforcing a judgement in another member State. Moreover, Regulation 1215/2012 further reformed the EC to make the process of enforcement even simpler. Lastly, although the process to enforce an EU judgement from another Member State has simplified, there are still instances where the enforcement of the judgement may be rejected.
For the enforcement of judgements from EU Member States, Spain uses Regulation 44/2001. However, for judgements that originate from outside the European Union, Spain follows the Hague Convention of 21 October 1976. Bilateral agreements regulate foreign judgements between Spain and several other countries. Spanish law requires that all parties be notified of judicial decisions made prior to enforcement. It also requires all documents submitted before the Spanish Court to be translated into Spanish. Lastly, according to Article 549 of the Spanish Civil Procedure Act, the procedure to execute foreign judgements commences with the accusing party submitting a request with a brief explanation of the facts and legal basis that support it.
Council Regulation 44/2001 lays down several rules regarding how to deal with judgements rendered in another Member State. The final part of the regulation states that EU Member States must recognize a judgement rendered in another EU Member State. Furthermore, this regulation includes the necessity for an exequatur. This is the procedure for the declaration of enforceability of another Member State’s judgement. However, this regulation does not cover every single area of law such as customs, revenue, or administrative matters. It also does not include the following: the status or legal capacity of natural persons, matters concerning matrimony (wills and succession), bankruptcy, social security and arbitration. Some more exceptions relate to public policy, irreconcilability with earlier judgements, and most notably default judgments where the defendant was not given adequate opportunity to arrange a defence.
Regulation 1215/2012 (also known as ´Brussels Ibis Regulation´) has now somewhat modified the above-mentioned regulation by simplifying it. However, the previous regulation’s core features have remained unchanged and are therefore still in play. The purpose of this new regulation is to ease the free circulation of judgements in the European Union and to enable rapid access to justice. Before the implementation of this regulation, an application of enforcement was required in order to have a judgement from another Member State become enforceable. Now, however, the need for an exequatur has been abolished. Article 39 of Regulation 1215/2012 states that an enforceable judgement delivered in a Member State will also be enforceable in any other Member State without any declaration of enforceability being necessary.
Nevertheless, there is still a requirement for some form of enforcement authority. Article 42(1) of the Brussels Ibis Regulation states that a party wishing to enforce a judgement delivered in another Member State must provide the second enforcement authority with the following two documents: a copy of the judgement which satisfies the conditions necessary to establish its authenticity and a certificate issued by the court of origin.
Additionally, Regulation 1215/2012 still offers grounds for refusing to enforce a judgement. This usually occurs in instances where enforcement would be contrary to public policy in the second Member State. Refusal could also occur in the situation where the judgement was delivered in default of one party’s appearance. Lastly, it could also occur if the judgement is irreconcilable with an earlier judgement that was given in another Member State involving the same cause of action. There are more grounds for refusal, but the above-mentioned are the key ones.
In conclusion, the procedure to ensure that a judgement from one Member State is enforceable in another Member State depends on how the judgement was delivered. However, as explained above, usually minimal steps are required to ensure enforcement of a judgement in another Member State.
Justine Matthys & Karl H. Lincke
Member of Eurojuris España, international network of law firms