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Ukraine / EU Judicial Cooperation on Civil Matters – A Call for Contributions

Between 24 and 27 October 2022, an international congress on the impacts of the war in Ukraine will take place at the University of Barcelona, organized by Cristina González Beilfuss and Xabier Fernández Pons.

On the face of the program, it looks as if most of the interventions are devoted to public law-related aspects of the war. There is nevertheless an open call for papers which may be taken up to present a couple of specific private law problems likely (unfortunately) to result from the war.

In a wider perspective, the event may be an occasion to reflect on cross-border cooperation in civil and commercial matters, family and successions included, in relation to Ukraine. I definitely think it worth to explore the landscape as far as the European Union is concerned, not only with a view to a possible accession in the future. This being said, I fear that many of us (scholars of EU Member States) are not in a position to conduct a deep research, lacking the necessary language skills.

Having this in mind, the purpose of this post is to draw the attention of Ukrainian scholars staying in Europe (let’s hope on-going funding programs will not stop) to address the topic, that is, to walk us into the PIL of a country to which the EU is already linked by projects and conventions.

This can perfectly be done through contributions to this blog. In this sense, by way of example I would like to propose two topics that could be briefly addressed.

The first one would delve into the civil cooperation aspects of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Ukraine, of the other part. The original document was signed on March 21 and 27 June 2014; it has been amended several times, the last consolidated version being of 22 November, 2021. It appears that only one provision of the Agreement focuses directly on judicial cooperation on civil matters, namely Article 24 paragraphs 1 and 2 in Title III, ‘Justice, Freedom and Security’:

‘Legal cooperation

  1. The Parties agree to further develop judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, making full use of the relevant international and bilateral instruments and based on the principles of legal certainty and the right to a fair trial.
  2. The Parties agree to facilitate further EU-Ukraine judicial cooperation in civil matters on the basis of the applicable multilateral legal instruments, especially the Conventions of the Hague Conference on Private International Law in the field of international Legal Cooperation and Litigation as well as the Protection of Children.’

Research could be done on the actual scope of the provision, its background, whether it has already crystallized on specific proposals or, simply, on how much judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters is already covered by Hague conventions.

In addition to this topic, another one of narrower scope is suggested by the case of OKR, C-387/20, a preliminary reference submitted to the Court in 2020 on the Succession Regulation. The second question referred to the Court read

‘Must Article 75, in conjunction with Article 22, of [the Succession Regulation] be interpreted as meaning that, in the case where a bilateral agreement between a Member State and a third country does not govern the choice of law applicable to a case involving succession but indicates the law applicable to that case involving succession, a national of that third country residing in a Member State bound by that bilateral agreement may make a choice of law?

and in particular:

–        must a bilateral agreement with a third country expressly exclude the choice of a specific law and not merely govern the lex successionis using objective connecting factors in order for its provisions to take precedence over Article 22 of [the Succession Regulation]?

–        is the freedom to choose the law governing succession and to make the applicable law uniform by making a choice of law – at least to the extent determined by the EU legislature in Article 22 of [the Succession Regulation] – one of the principles underlying judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters in the European Union, which may not be infringed even where bilateral agreements with third countries apply which take precedence over [the Succession Regulation]?’

The ’third country’ was the Ukraine; at stake was whether a Polish notary could draw up a notarial will with a clause stipulating that the law applicable to the succession would be Ukrainian law, i.e., the national law of the grantor. The request was declared inadmissible on 21 September 2021 under Article 53(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court, after the Court got from the notary an explanation in relation to his duties in the context of the procedure in order to determine whether or not he had, in the present case, the status of a ‘court or tribunal’ within the meaning of Article 267 TFEU. The substantive question remains thus to be answered – and it probably will, for the request is back before the Court, this time sent by the Sąd Okręgowy w Opolu. While Ukrania is, for obvious reasons, not a country presenting observations, nor can scholar Ukranian views of the problem be determinant , it is not without interest to learn how Article 75 of the Succession Regulation is seen from the non-EU signatory countries to the bilateral agreement.

Legal Secretary CJEU Full Professor PIL University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) Senior research fellow MPI Luxembourg (on leave) Usual disclaimer applies

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