Enforcement of European judgments in civil and commercial matters
Guillermo Bayas Fernández, partner Litigation and Arbitration area. AGM Abogados.
Judgments in civil, commercial and labour matters from other Member States of the European Union are enforced in Spain under Regulation 1215/2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (hereinafter “R1215”), which replaces Regulation 44/2001. R1215 also applies to the enforcement of judicial transactions (agreements between parties in the presence of judicial authority) and public documents, such as notarial deeds. To apply the R1215 in Spain, the 25th Final Provision of the Spanish Civil Procedure Act (‘Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil’, hereinafter “LEC”) is of great use, since it provides specific instructions on the recognition and enforcement procedure.
The main update introduced by R1215 is the elimination of the exequatur procedure (i.e., the declaration of enforceability of a foreign judgment), which means that any judgment that is enforceable in the Member State where it has been issued can be directly enforced in any other Member State as if it had been issued in the requested Member State, without any prior procedure.
The authority in charge of enforcing foreign judgments in Spain is the Court called ‘Juzgado de Primera Instancia’ of the defendant’s domicile or where assets that can be seized are located, at the discretion of the enforcing party. The documents that the applicant must provide the enforcement authorities with are: 1) a copy of the judgment which satisfies the conditions necessary to establish its authenticity; and 2) a certificate issued according to the model in Annex I of R1215, certifying that the judgment is enforceable and containing an extract of the judgment. While the Regulation specifies that a translation is not necessary unless the executing authority request it, it is common practice of Spanish Courts to require such a translation, so I recommend that it be included along with the two mentioned documents.
Once such documents are delivered to the Court, the Court directly enforces the judgment. However, before adopting specific enforcement measures it must serve the certificate to the defendant. The defendant may request the refusal of enforcement based on any of the grounds listed in R1215, among which that the enforcement is manifestly contrary to public policy; that the judgment was given in default of appearance; when it is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in another Member State or in a third State or it has been issued in breach of rules of jurisdiction. Such application in Spain is processed through an expedited proceeding (“juicio verbal”) with some particularities laid down in the aforementioned 25th Final Provision of the LEC.
Besides the basic rules on enforcement contained in R1215 we have just reviewed, the enforcement procedure itself is governed by the requested Member State law.
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You may also be interested in our article “Enforcement of judgments from non-EU countries in civil and commercial matters”