On January 10, 2015,  European Parliament and Council regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (“Brussels Regulation”) came into effect. The Brussels Regulation replaces the original Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 and though the new law is mostly only a matter of revised wording, it brings some important changes. 

These key changes aim to harmonise European regulations. They include the cancellation of the need for enforcement orders, support for the effectiveness of forum selection clauses, new regulations on lis pendens (proceedings pending elsewhere) and the introduction of a general court jurisdiction for consumers. 

Under the new Brussels Regulation wording, it is no longer the case that before enforcing a judgment issued in another member state, a foreign enforcement order (exequatur) must be obtained. This eliminates the need for proceedings on the recognition of the judgment. It should mean that the enforcement of judgments is not only easier, but faster. 

Furthermore, in cases where the jurisdiction (i.e. the choice of court) has been agreed on, the Brussels Regulation lifts the requirement that at least one party to the agreement must be based in an EU member state. At the same time, it allows for jurisdiction clauses to be severed where they are part of a contract. The validity of the jurisdiction clause will be decided under the law of the member state of the competent court stated in the jurisdiction clause. 

The new wording of the Brussels Regulation also affects the regulation of lis pendens, particularly in light of negative experiences with “torpedo” litigation in Italy. The previous wording provided that if cases involving the same parties and same cause of action were initiated before courts of different member states, the court hearing the case later should stay its proceedings (without the need for any application) until the first court ruled on its jurisdiction. In Italy, however, this rule was often abused by parties for whom the proceedings were detrimental; they would, thus, deliberately file a lawsuit before a non-competent court, causing significant delays in the whole proceedings. 

The Brussels Regulation resolves the lis pendens regulation so that preference is always given to the court agreed on by the parties. Thus, if proceedings are initiated before a non-competent court in a member state other than that of the agreed court, those proceedings will be stayed until such time as the competent court designated in the agreement decides on its (lack of) jurisdiction.

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