Enforcement of judgements abroad now easier


The enforcement of judgements given in civil and commercial matters in other EU Member States became simpler from 10 January 2015.[1] Before, in order to enforce a judgement in another EU Member State, one had to have recourse to the corresponding court first and then apply for the declaration of enforceability of the judgement there. However, from 10 January 2015 it is possible to go with the judgement directly to the bailiffs of each Member State where the debtor has assets. This new procedure will apply to the judgements given after the aforementioned date.

New procedure

As already mentioned, before, in order to enforce an Estonian judgement, for example, in Finland one had to to have recourse to the Finnish court first and to apply there for the declaration of enforceability of Estonian judgement, whereupon it was possible only then to approach the Finnish bailiff. Although it was only a formal procedure, it took quite a bit of time and was inconvenient for the creditors. It also involved expenses which were not compensated. In case of smaller claims the corresponding expenses could prove to be disproportionately high.

As of now, this requirement (i.e. obligatory intermediate stage) has been repealed – it is possible to go immediately with a judgement given in Estonia to the bailiffs of each Member State where the debtor has assets. It is only required to submit the following documents:

  • a certificate of enforceability of judgement (the judge who made the judgement will issue the certificate immediately at your request); and
  • a copy of judgement.

The bailiff of the enforcing Member State may also request the translations of the corresponding documents. This new principle simplifies and quickens considerably the cross-border debt recovery.

This change concerns most judgements given in civil and commercial matters in the EU Member States.[2] Whereas, theme-specific regulations have been adopted at EU level with regard to certain themes (e.g. succession and maintenance matters, parental responsibility and divorce) in which case the enforcement of judgements has to be regarded in terms of the corresponding regulation. The aforementioned requirement for the declaration of enforceability of the judgement, i.e. exequatur, has already been repealed, for example, in maintenance matters.[3]

What can a debtor do?

A debtor can contest the enforcement of the judgement on limited grounds only. For that purpose, the debtor has to submit an application to the court of the enforcing Member State. Under no circumstances will the judgement be examined on the merits.

In practice, the most frequently contested cases involve default judgements. In order to contest a default judgement, the debtor has to prove that the document concerning the initiation of litigation was not served sufficiently early and in such manner that the debtor would have been able to arrange his/her defence. The court shall arrange the service of required documents itself in accordance with established requirements. Thus, in practice the corresponding ground of contestation could be considered also in exceptional cases rather.

[1] See Regulation (EU) No 1215/ 2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters (recast). The so-called Brussels I Regulation (recast).
[2] See about this Article 1 of the Brussels I Regulation (recast).
[3] See Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 of 18 December 2008 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters realting to maintenance obligations.

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