Skip to main content


  • Gilles Cuniberti (a1)

The recognition of foreign judgments lacking reasons raises several policy issues. Reason-giving is perceived by the European Court of Human Rights as critical to ensure an effective access to justice. Yet, foreign judgments often lack reasons because the defendant failed to appear before the foreign court, and it may be right to sanction this strategy of foreign court avoidance. Finally, the European Union has begun to implement its policy of efficiency of cross-border enforcement, which commands states to recognize such judgments irrespective of any other consideration. This article explores whether these conflicting issues can be reconciled.

Hide All

1 See generally T Hartley, ‘The European Union and the Systematic Dismantling of the Common Law of Conflict of Laws’ (2005) 54 ICLQ 813.

2 Stolzenberg v CIBC Mellon Trust, Civ 1ère, 30 June 2004 (2004) Rev Crit DIP 815, (2005) Clunet 112.

3 SA Banque Worms v Epoux Brachot, Civ 1ère, 19 Nov 2002 (2003) Rev Crit DIP 631. In English, see Muir Watt, (2003) CLJ 573.

4 In 1999, the Cour de Cassation held that a security for costs was a breach of the right to a fair trial because it jeopardised access to justice (see Pordea v Times Newspaper Ltd, Civ 1ère, 16 March 1999 (2000) Rev Crit DIP 223). In 2004, it held that anti-suit injunctions were an unacceptable breach of the sovereignty of the foreign state (see Stolzenberg, n 2).

5 See eg K Zweigert and H Kotz, An Introduction to Comparative Law (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998) 122.

6 French New Code of Civil Procedure, Art 455. French courts must be satisfied that the facts and the rules stated in the judgment are accurate. Thus, mere reference to the pleadings of the parties without verifying and actually endorsing their conclusions would not meet this requirement: see, eg Ros v SGREB, 3 May 1985 (1985) Bull Civ II, n 91 (Civ II).

7 See, eg, Charbois v Remivex 17 June 1986 (1986) Bull Civ IV, n 124 (Com.). There are exceptions to the rule in family law for privacy protection purposes (judgments ruling on an adoption, for instance), and for a variety of procedural decisions (decisions ruling on a joinder or on costs, for instance).

8 For instance, when the Cour de Cassation declared enforceable an English Mareva injunction, it was because the ECJ had held that conservative measures were enforceable under the Brussels Convention (Deninauler v SNC Couchet Freres, C 125/79 [1980] ECR 1553).

9 Hirvisaari v Finland, Judgment of 27 September 2001, No 49684/99, para 30. See also Ruiz Torija v Spain, Judgment of 9 December 1994, série A n° 303-A, p 12, para 29; Higgins v France, Judgment of 19 February 1998, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1998-I, p 60, para 42.

10 Jokela v Finland, Judgment of 21 May 2002, Reports 2002-IV, § 73. See also Nedzela v France, Judgment of 27 July 2006, para 55; Albina v Romania, Judgment of 28 July 2005, para 34; García Ruiz v Spain, Judgment of 21 January 1999, Reports 1999-I, para 26; Helle v Finland, Judgment of 19 December 1997, Reports 1997-VIII, para 60.

11 See above, n 9.

12 See above, n 10.

13 See above, n 9.

14 Nedzela (n 10), para 15.

15 Jokela (n 10), para 72, Albina (n 10), para 30.

16 Below, III.

17 Certainly, the present author knows of one case, but the action was most surprisingly dismissed by the ECtHR as non-serious, and for such decisions the ECtHR unfortunately (and quite ironically) does not state the reasons on which they are based.

18 ECHR, Art 35-1.

19 This is the law of France, where all courts may declare any statute contrary to the Convention. They have indeed done so quite frequently in recent years, redesigning many rules of French civil procedure.

20 See the cases at n 9 above.

21 See, eg, Hirvisaari (n 9), para 30; Jokela (n 10), para 72; Albina (n 10), para 34.

22 See above, n 10.

23 See JJ Fawcett, ‘The Impact of Article 6(1) of the ECHR on Private International Law’ (2007) 56 ICLQ 1; P Kinsch, ‘The Impact of the Human Rights on the Application of Foreign Law and on the Recognition of Foreign Judgments’ in T Einhorn and K Sierh (eds), International Cooperation Through Private International Law—Essays in Memory of Peter Nygh, 2004, 197.

24 Judgment of 20 July 2001 (2001) 35 EHRR 44.

25 [2004] UKHL 37, [2004] 3 WLR 2241.

26 See JJ Fawcett (n 23) 35; A Briggs (2004) 75 BYBIL 537; Hartley (2004) 120 LQR 211.

27 See, eg Judge J-P Costa (2002) Rev Trim Dr H 473; LL Christians (2004) Rev Crit DIP 112, 114; L Sinopoli, ‘Droit au procès équitable et exequatur: Strasbourg sonne les cloches a Rome’ (2002) Gaz Pal, Doct, 1157.

28 Para 40.

29 See Kinsch (n 23) 227–8, Sinopoli (n 27) 1162.

30 LL Christians (n 27) 119.

31 See JP Costa (n 27) 475; C Focarelli, ‘Equo processo e riconoscimento di sentenze straniere: il caso Pellegrini’ (2001) Riv Dir Int 955, 960, n 13.

32 JJ Fawcett (n 23) 43.

33 Judgment of 7 July 1989, (1989) 11 EHRR 439.

34 See also Einhorn v France, Judgment of 16 October 2001, Reports of Judgments and decisions 2001-XI, p 275; Tomic v United Kingdom (14 Oct 2003) unreported.

35 See LL Christians (n 27) 119, H Muir Watt (2005) Rev Crit DIP 316, 321; J-P Marguenaud (2001) RTDCiv 986.

36 See, eg Tomic (n 34).

37 (2004) 75 BYBIL 537, 539–43.

38 Convention of 27 Sept 1968 on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, [1978] OJ L 304/77.

39 EC Regulation 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters [2001] OJ L 12/1.

40 Case C-7/98 [2000] ECR I-1935.

41 See, eg A Briggs and P Rees, Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (4th edn, Informa Finance, 2005) para 7.14.

42 Contrast H Gaudemet Tallon, (2000) Rev Crit DIP 504, 510.

43 Contrast Dicey, Morris and Collins on the Conflict of Laws (14th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, 2006) para 14-208.

44 Viliard Charbonnieras v Viliard Charbonnieras, Civ 1ère, 17 Oct 1972 [1972] Bull Civ I, n 205; Vanclef v TTI, Civ 1ère, 17 May 1978 (1979) Clunet 380; X v Y, Civ 1ère, 22 Apr 1981 [1981] Bull Civ I, n 124; P v N, Civ 1ère, 28 Oct 1981, [1981] Bull Civ. I, n 319; Polypetrol v Société Générale Routière, Civ 1ère, 9 Oct 1991 (1992) Rev Crit DIP 516, (1993) Clunet 157; Chemssi v Sollac, Soc (7 December 1993), unreported; Ifafood v Grandpré, Civ 1ère (9 Feb 1994) unreported; Stolzenberg (n 2); Printed Forms Equipment Ltd v Matériel Auxiliaire d'Informatique, Civ 1ère, 17 Jan 2006 (2006) Droit et Procédures 220; Casamata v Union Discount Ltd, Civ 1ère, 28 Nov 2006 (2007) Clunet 140; X v Y, Civ 1ère, 28 Nov 2006, [2006] Bull Civ I, n 520.

45 ‘Des documents de nature à servir d’équivalents à la motivation défaillante': Casamata (n 44). See also, eg Stolzenberg (n 2); Printed Forms Equipment Ltd (n 44).

46 Vanclef (n 44).

47 Ifafood (n 44).

48 X v Y, Civ 1ère, 22 Apr 1981 (n 44); P v N (n 44); Polypetrol (n 44). See also Dasse v Banque Populaire de la Région Economique de Strasbourg, Court of Appeal of Colmar (28 Feb 2002) unreported.

49 Viliard Charbonnieras (n 41); Chemssi (n 44).

50 Brero v Blech, Civ 1ère, 20 Sept 2006 (2007) Clunet 139.

51 Stolzenberg (n 2); Printed Forms Equipment Ltd (n 44); Casamata (n 44). See also Camenzuli v Desira, Civ 1ère, 17 Nov 1999 (2000) Rev Crit DIP 786.

52 X v Y, Civ 1ère, 28 Nov 2006 (n 41). The foreign court was the Superior Court of California.

53 See above, n 50.

54 ‘[A]ttendu que le dossier ne fait donc pas ressortir que le tribunal est incompétent ou que les conclusions de la partie demanderesse sont en contradiction avec les faits articulés ou les pièces produites’. See Brero v Blech, Court of Appeal of Chambery (20 Sept 2002) unreported.

55 See Stolzenberg (n 2); Casamata (n 44). See also Camenzuli (n 51).

56 By contrast, French courts must always be satisfied that the plaintiff gets what he deserves under the applicable law. The difference can be tenuous when a French court will refer to the pleadings of the wining party and endorse its reasoning in one word (for instance, by ruling: ‘as the plaintiff rightly submits …’), but it is very clear in principle.

57 At least in principle: see below III B.

58 Above, II A.

59 Above, II B 2.

60 See above, n 14.

61 See, eg, L Boré (2002) JCP éd G, I, 104; JF Renucci, Droit européen des droits de l'homme, LGDJ (2002), n 143.

62 ‘[E]st contraire à la conception française de l'ordre public international de procédure, la reconnaissance d'une décision étrangère non motivée lorsque ne sont pas produits des documents de nature à servir d'équivalent à la motivation défaillante', Casamata (n 44). See also Vanclef (n 44); Stolzenberg (n 2); Printed Forms Equipment Ltd (n 44).

63 See, eg, Stolzenberg (n 2); Printed Forms Equipment Ltd (n 44).

64 See, eg Stolzenberg (n 2); Printed Forms Equipment Ltd (n 44). See also Casamata (n 44), denying enforcement after noting that the ‘document instituting the proceedings’ had not been produced.

65 Civ 1ère, 17 Jan 2006 (n 44). See also Casamata (n 44), denying enforcement after noting that a prior judgment had not been produced.

66 P Mayer and V Heuzé, Droit International Privé (8th edn MontChrestien, 2004) n 384.

67 Civ 1ère, 20 Sept 2006 (n 51).

68 Casamata, Civ 1ère, 28 Nov 2006 (n 44).

69 See above, n 51.

70 Yet, there is some anecdotal evidence that it was not irrelevant to at least a few judges. See, eg the oral conclusions of Advocate General Lautru before the Court of Appeal in Stolzenberg v CIBC Mellon Trust (unreported).

71 Civ 1ère, 29 Jan 2002 (2002) Rev Crit DIP 573.

72 [1996] 1 Lloyd's Rep 426.

73 [2004] EWHC 2323 (Comm), [2005] 2 Lloyd's Rep 336.

74 The court stated: ‘To be enforceable in India, a judgment should be on the merits, after due consideration of the pleadings, evidence and argument, and should set out reasons for the decision’.

75 Yet, Dicey and Morris on the conflict of laws has been warning English lawyers specifically on the French situation for a long time: see Dicey and Morris on the Conflict of Laws, 13th edn para 14-205.

76 OJ C L 143/16.

77 2004 Regulation, Art 5.

78 Art 6. On these requirements, or minimum standards, see below B.

79 Art 5.

80 Art 10.

81 Art 21.

82 Art 23.

83 Art 21.

84 Art 20.

85 It is only an option for the plaintiff who can seek a declaration of enforceability of his judgment under the Brussels I Regulation if he so chooses (2004 Regulation, Art 27). But if there is a risk that his judgment could be denied recognition abroad, his interest will obviously be to seek the certification of his judgment as an EEO.

86 Recital 3 of the preamble to the 2004 Regulation.

87 See Recital 4 of the preamble to the 2004 Regulation. Other steps of the process have been Regulation 1896/2006 of 12 December 2006 creating a European order for payment procedure (OJ C L 399/1) and Regulation 861/2007 of 11 July 2007 establishing a European Small Claims Procedure (OJ C L 199/1).

88 See Recital 6 of the preamble to Regulation 1896/2006: ‘late payments constitute a major reason for insolvency threatening the survival of businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, and resulting in numerous job losses.’

89 Above, II B.

90 ‘(12) Minimum standards should be established for the proceedings leading to the judgment in order to ensure that the debtor is informed about the court action against him, the requirements for his active participation in the proceedings to contest the claim and the consequences of his non-participation in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable him to arrange for his defence.’

91 Obviously, the most radical way to reconcile Pellegrini and the 2004 Regulation is to accept the proposition of the House of Lords that Pellegrini must be confined to its facts.

92 See the commentators cited above, n 29.

93 That is governing the enforcement of judgments originating both from Contracting and Non-Contracting States. See the commentators cited above, n 31.

94 The argument was made by several French writers: see M-L Niboyet, ‘La réception du droit communautaire en droit judiciaire interne et international’ in J S Bergé and M-L Niboyet (eds), La réception du droit communautaire en droit privé des Etats membres (Bruylent, 2004) 153, 172; L d'Avout, ‘La circulation automatique des titres exécutoires imposées par le règlement 805/2004 du 21 avril 2004’ (2006) Rev Crit DIP 1, 46.

95 See, eg Coote v Granada Hospitality Ltd C-185/197 [1998] ECR 5211.

96 EC Treaty, Art 234.

97 EC Treaty, Art 241.

98 See d'Avout (n 94), 46.

99 BGBl, 2005, I, 2477.

100 See, eg E Jayme and C Kohler (2005) Iprax 486.

101 ‘The Regulation allows debtors to raise arguments against the title, which was certified as a European Enforcement Order in another Member State, that they could have raised under German law in an enforcement challenge. Therefore, this is not a forbidden challenge on the merits, since the arguments could not be raised before the court of the state of origin. Furthermore, the enforcement challenge is to be found in Book 8 of the Code of civil procedure on enforcement, which remains untouched by article 20 of the 2004 Regulation.’ BT-Drs 15/5222, 15 (translation by the author).

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International & Comparative Law Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0020-5893
  • EISSN: 1471-6895
  • URL: /core/journals/international-and-comparative-law-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *