Case law Developments in PIL

May 2022 at the Court of Justice of the European Union

May 2022 starts with the hearing in C-354/21 Registrų centras, on Regulation n° 650/2012, next Wednesday. In the case at hand, R.J.R., the appellant, holds Lithuanian and German nationality and is resident in Germany. Her mother died on 6 December 2015; at the time of her death, she had her place of habitual residence in Germany; her estate consisted on property owned in Germany and in Lithuania. The appellant, the sole heir of his mother, accepted her entire estate in Germany without reservation in accordance with the procedure and time limits laid down in German law.

R.J.R. filed an application for a European Certificate of Succession in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 with the competent German court; it was issued on 24 September 2018. On 15 March 2019, the appellant submitted to the VĮ Registrų centras (State Enterprise Centre of Registers) an application for registration of his ownership rights to the immovable property registered in the name of his mother. Together with the application, the appellant submitted the Certificate of Succession and European Certificate of Succession issued on 24 September 2018, copies of translations of those documents, and copies of passports of the Republic of Lithuania issued to J.M. R., G. R. and R.J. R. On 20 March 2019, the appellant’s request was refused, on the grounds that European Certificate of Succession No 1 VI 175/18 did not contain the data provided for in the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Real Property Register which were necessary to identify the immovable property, that is to say, that that certificate did not indicate the property inherited by the appellant.

The decision was appealed but upheld. A further appeal was dismissed as unfounded. The case is now before the Lietuvos vyriausiasis administracinis teismas (Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania), who has referred to following question to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling:

Must point (l) of Article 1(2) and Article 69(5) of Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession be interpreted as not precluding legal rules of the Member State in which the immovable property is situated under which the rights of ownership can be recorded in the Real Property Register on the basis of a European Certificate of Succession only in the case where all of the details necessary for registration are set out in that European Certificate of Succession?

The opinions on C-646/20 Senatsverwaltung für Inneres und Sport, and C-700/20 London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association, both from AG Collins, will be published on Thursday. Not surprisingly, both cases will be addressed by the Grand Chamber.

C-646/20 is a request from the German Bundesgerichtshof on Brussels II bis:

  1. Is the dissolution of a marriage on the basis of Article 12 of Decreto Legge (Italian Decree-Law) No 132 of 12 September 2014 (‘DL No 132/2014’) a divorce within the meaning of the Brussels IIa Regulation?
  2. If Question 1 is answered in the negative: Is the dissolution of a marriage on the basis of Article 12 of DL No 132/2014 to be treated in accordance with the rule in Article 46 of the Brussels IIa Regulation on authentic instruments and agreements?

For the record, according to the referring court, the legal situation is as follows in Italy: under Decreto Legge (Italian Decree-Law) No 132 of 12 September 2014 (‘DL No 132/2014’), converted into Law No 162 of 10 November 2014, spouses no longer need to petition the court for divorce and may opt for divorce by way of a simple agreement. Subject to specific requirements detailed in the law, spouses may either agree to divorce in the presence of their lawyers (Article 6 of DL No 132/2014) or, as in the case at hand, they may enter into a divorce agreement under Article 12 of DL No 132/2014, before the mayor with territorial jurisdiction, acting as supreme civil registrar, even without the assistance of a lawyer, provided they have no underage children or adult children who have no legal capacity or are seriously disabled or economically dependent. The civil registrar takes receipt of the spouses’ personal statements, which cannot include any asset transfers, and asks them to return before him or her no earlier than 30 days after receipt of the statements to confirm the agreement. In the period between submission of the statements and confirmation of the agreement, the civil registrar is able to verify the veracity of the spouses’ statements (e.g. that they do not have any dependent children) and the spouses have the opportunity to reflect on their decision and, if they wish, to change it. If they confirm the agreement, it applies in lieu of a judicial decision.

C-700/20 comes from the High Court of Justice Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, United Kingdom ; it was filed just a couple of days before the end of the transitional period. The question referred concerns the interpretation of the Brussels I Regulation. The main proceedings are based on a dispute between London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Limited (‘the Insurer’), having its registered office in the United Kingdom, and the Kingdom of Spain concerning claims for damages arising from the sinking off the coast of Spain of a vessel carrying fuel oil – the Prestige. The insurance contract contained, inter alia, an arbitration agreement governed by English law.

The Kingdom of Spain asserted its rights to receive compensation from the Insurer under the insurance contract, in the context of criminal proceedings instituted in Spain in 2002. Following a first-instance decision in 2013 and several appeals, the Spanish proceedings culminated in a finding that the Insurer was liable for the loss caused by the shipping accident subject to the limitation of liability provided for in the insurance contract. The Spanish court issued an execution order on 1 March 2019. On 25 March 2019, the Kingdom of Spain applied for recognition and enforcement of that order in the United Kingdom in accordance with Article 33 of the Brussels I Regulation. That application was granted. The Insurer appealed against that decision in accordance with Article 43 of the Brussels I Regulation.

The Insurer, for its part, initiated arbitration proceedings in London in 2012. In the resulting award it was established that the Kingdom of Spain would have to initiate arbitration proceedings in London in order to assert claims under the insurance contract. The Commercial Court of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, before which enforcement of the award was sought under section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, entered a judgment in the terms of the award against the Kingdom of Spain in October 2013, which was confirmed on appeal. The Kingdom of Spain took part neither in the arbitration proceedings nor in the judicial proceedings in the United Kingdom.

The referring court asks the following questions:

(1) Given the nature of the issues which the national court is required to determine in deciding whether to enter judgment in the terms of an award under Section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, is a judgment granted pursuant to that provision capable of constituting a relevant “judgment” of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3) of EC Regulation No 44/2001?

(2) Given that a judgment entered in the terms of an award, such as a judgment under Section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, is a judgment falling outside the material scope of Regulation No 44/2001 by reason of the Article 1(2)(d) arbitration exception, is such a judgment capable of constituting a relevant “judgment” of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3) of the Regulation?

(3) On the hypothesis that Article 34(3) of Regulation No 44/2001 does not apply, if recognition and enforcement of a judgment of another Member State would be contrary to domestic public policy on the grounds that it would violate the principle of res judicata by reason of a prior domestic arbitration award or a prior judgment entered in the terms of the award granted by the court of the Member State in which recognition is sought, is it permissible to rely on Article 34(1) of Regulation No 44/2001 as a ground of refusing recognition and enforcement or do Articles 34(3) and (4) of the Regulation provide the exhaustive grounds by which res judicata and/or irreconcilability can prevent recognition and enforcement of a Regulation judgment?

Finally, the judment on C-644/20, W.J. (Changement de résidence habituelle du créancier d’aliments), referred by the Sąd Okręgowy w Poznaniu (Regional Court in Poznań, Poland), is expected on Thursday 12th. The question for interpretation is the following :

‘Must Article 3(1) and (2) of the Hague Protocol of 23 November 2007 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations, approved on behalf of the European Community by Council Decision 2009/941/EC of 30 November 2009 (OJ 2009 L 331, p. 17), be interpreted as meaning that a creditor who is a child may acquire a new habitual residence in the State in which he or she was wrongfully retained if a court orders the return of the creditor to the State in which he or she habitually resided immediately prior to the wrongful retention?’

No opinion was deemed necessary.

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

2 comments on “May 2022 at the Court of Justice of the European Union

  1. Adrian Briggs

    So far as concerns C-700/20, it should be noted that on March 1, the Court of Appeal, in The Prestige (No 5) [2022] EWCA Civ 238, ruled that the reference should not have been made as a matter of European law, and (in effect) remitted the matter to the judge with its advice that he should withdraw the reference. On March 31 the Supreme Court gave permission to appeal against the decsion of the Court of Appeal. It is not easy to tell whether this is one of those Brexit advantages that various grinning idiots are so quick to proclaim and so hilariously unable to explain.

  2. Marta Requejo Isidro

    Short addendum to the information given by Prof. Briggs: according to Article 100, paragraph 1, of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice, ‘The Court shall remain seised of a request for a preliminary ruling for as long as it is not withdrawn by the court or tribunal which made that request to the Court. The withdrawal of a request may be taken into account until notice of the date of delivery of the judgment has been served on the interested persons referred to in Article 23 of the Statute’.

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