Case law Developments in PIL

February at the Court of Justice of the European Union

Compared to January (with the hearings I had announced here, plus AG Szpunar’s opinion on Rina, delivered on the 14th), February 2020 will be a quiet month at the Court in terms of private international law, with just AG Bobek’s opinion in FX v GZ (case C-41/19) being scheduled for the 27th.

The case concerns both the Maintenance Regulation and the Brussels I bis Regulation, in the context of judicial proceedings instituted in Germany whereby the applicant, residing in Germany, tries to resist the enforcement of a Polish decision to pay monthly maintenance for his daughter.

As grounds for his application, the applicant argues that the defendant’s maintenance claim underlying the Polish decision had been settled by payment (for the record, the Polish judgment was given in 2009; the request for enforcement in Germany was filed in 2016).

The referring court hesitates about its jurisdiction. If the application opposing enforcement made by the applicant constitutes a matter relating to maintenance for the purposes of Article 1 of the Maintenance Regulation, then no international jurisdiction of the court seised results from the Regulation, since the conditions of Article 3 of the Maintenance Regulation are evidently not satisfied.

By contrast, the courts in Poland, where the order was made, would, pursuant to Article 3(a) and (b) of the Regulation, be directly called upon to deal with the applicant’s defence of fulfilment. Conversely, the view that applications opposing enforcement are not matters relating to maintenance within the meaning of the maintenance Regulation is the prevailing opinion in Germany, where it is argued that the objective of an application against opposing enforcement is directed solely against the enforcement itself, which is not covered by the manintenance Regulation.

Should the latter view on the interpretation of the maintenance Regulation be right, the question arises whether proceedings concerned with the enforcement of judgments within the meaning of Article 24(5) of the Brussels I bis Regulation are involved. In this regard, the German court claims that an answer is not apparent from the decisions of the Court of Justice in AS Autoteile Service (case C-220/84) and in Prism Investments (case C-139/10).

At the same time, because both decisions concerned general civil and commercial matters and were delivered before the entry into force of the Maintenance Regulation and the Brussels I bis Regulation – which, according to its Article 1(2)(e), is not intended to cover matters relating to maintenance – the court doubts they are transferable to matters relating to maintenance.

While waiting for AG Bobek’s opinion, I would like to add that another request for a preliminary ruling on the maintenance Regulation is pending (still at an early stage) where its relationship with the Brussels I bis Regulation for the purposes of interpretation is also at stake.

Senior research fellow MPI Luxembourg (on leave) Legal secretary at the CJEU Full Professor PIL, University of La Laguna (Spain)