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Competent courts

Empty seats in a court with microphones fixed to the table © digital-designer, fotolia

The 'Brussels I' Regulation (recast) sets out which courts should hear a cross-border dispute, and how a judgment can be recognised and enforced in another EU country.

Which court should hear a cross-border dispute

The normal rule is that the courts of the EU country where the defendant is domiciled should hear the case.

Additional special rules exist. For instance:

  • a breach of contract: the courts of the place where the contract should have been carried out should hear the case;
  • non-contractual matters (tort or delict): the courts of the place where the harmful event took place are competent. For example, if you were injured by someone's negligence, the case would be heard in the EU country where you were hurt.

In addition, if a consumer initiates a case, he/she may have the choice between:

  • the courts of his/her own country; or
  • the courts of the defendant's country.

The Regulation  applies to all civil and commercial cases, whether the claim is contested or uncontested and irrespective of the amount of the claim.

Recognise and enforce a judgment in another EU country

Once you have obtained a judgment in your favour, that judgment must be recognised in every EU country. It may be refused only in highly exceptional cases.

To enforce it in another EU country if you have an enforceable judgment issued in the EU country, you can go to the enforcement authorities in other Member State where e.g. the debtor has assets without any intermediary procedure being required (the Regulation abolishes the 'exequatur ' procedure). The debtor against whom you seek the enforcement may apply to the court requesting refusal of enforcement.