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Service of documents

Man in a lawyer dress holding yellow and red folders with a grey background © Paty Wingrove, fotolia

If you become involved in legal proceedings, you will have to send and receive various documents to and from the other party. To use the legal term, you will have to serve documents.

Transmitting documents

To make cooperation between the judicial authorities of EU countries work properly, the transmission of documents between judicial authorities must be fast and secure.

The Council has therefore adopted a 'Regulation on the service in EU countries of judicial and extra-judicial documents in civil or commercial matters', to handle the transmission of documents from one EU country to another.

This Regulation applies to all EU countries except Denmark . Denmark has concluded a parallel agreement on 19 October 2005 with the European Community on the service of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters, which extends the provisions of the Regulation on service of documents and its implementing measures to Denmark. The agreement entered into force on 1 July 2007. On the basis of this agreement, Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007 is applicable in relation to Denmark.

This Regulation has simplified the service of documents in cross-border cases.

All EU countries have designated 2 local bodies:

  • transmitting agencies;
  • receiving agencies.

They are responsible respectively for the transmission and receipt of documents.

Transmission of documents, step-by-step

The document to be transmitted is to be accompanied by a request drawn up using a standard form.

Based on this:

  • the transmitting agency sends the document to the designated receiving agency in the country where the documents are to be served. This agency itself serves the document or has it served;
    • either in conformity with the law of the EU country addressed;
    • or using a particular method requested by the transmitting agency, unless this method is incompatible with the law of that EU country.
  • the addressee may refuse to accept the document to be served if it is not written or accompanied by translation into either of the following languages;
    • a language which the addressee understands;
    • the official language of the EU country addressed.
  • when the formalities concerning the service of the document have been completed, the receiving agency will confirm this by drawing up a certificate of completion, which it addresses to the transmitting agency.

Both the transmitting and the receiving agencies must use the prescribed document form as specified and attached in the annex of the Regulation.

Each EU country has designated a 'central body' that supplies information to the transmitting agencies and seeks solutions to any difficulties which may arise during transmission of documents for service.

Providing other means of transmission

The Regulation also provides rules for other means of transmission and service of judicial documents such as:

  • transmission by consular or diplomatic channels;
  • service by diplomatic or consular agents;
  • service of judicial documents by postal services.

Persons interested in a judicial proceeding can also serve judicial documents directly through:

  • judicial officers;
  • officials; or
  • other competent authorities of the EU country addressed.

But this is not possible if the EU country addressed has communicated that it opposes the 'direct service' of documents in its territory.