Enforcement of judgments from non-EU countries in civil and commercial matters

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Guillermo Bayas Fernández

The recognition and enforcement in Spain of final judgments in civil and commercial matters from countries outside the European Union is regulated by the Spanish act ‘Ley 29/2015, de 30 de de cooperación jurídica internacional en materia civil’ (from now on LCJIC). This act is also applied to the recognition and enforcement of transactions (agreements between parties before a judicial authority) and public documents, provided they are enforceable in the country of issuance.

Unlike what happens with the judgments of foreign Member States of the EU, the recognition of decisions from non-EU countries is not automatic, requiring that the plaintiff files an exequatur lawsuit before or with the lawsuit seeking enforcement.

The jurisdiction for exequatur lawsuit in Spain belongs to the Court called ‘Juzgado de Primera Instancia’ (or ‘Juzgado Mercantil’ depending on the matter of the judgment) of the address of the person against whom enforcement is sough. Lacking such address, the matter shall be heard by the ‘Juzgado de Primera Instancia’ of the place of enforcement or where the decision shall produce effects (for example, a place where the debtor has registered property).

The exequatur procedure starts with a lawsuit addressed to the person against whom enforcement is sought, which must be signed by lawyer and ‘procurador’ (in Spain the procurador is a professional, independent from the lawyer, who holds the formal representation of the party and is ultimately in charge of document management and contacting with the court during the procedure). The following documents must be included with the lawsuit: 1) original or copy of the foreign judgment, legalized or with the Apostille; 2) document certifying the judgment was served, if it was given in default of appearance; 3) any other documentary proof of the strength and enforceability of the foreign judgment in the country where the judgment was given; 4) translation to Spanish or to another official language at the place of enforcement of all documents.

Having received the lawsuit, the defendant can oppose the enforcement within 30 days. Besides the grounds of opposition available in the enforcement of Spanish judgments (such as having paid the amount claimed), the defendant may object alleging any of the reasons listed in the LCJIC, including that judgment is contrary to public policy; it has been issued violating defense rights or on a matter in which the jurisdiction belongs exclusively to Spanish Courts; it is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in Spain or in another country; it is the result of a procedure initiated after the start of another procedure in Spain between the same parties and having the same object. Regarding transactions and public documents, they shall not be recognized and/or enforced if they are contrary to public policy.

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You may also be interested in our article “Enforcement of European judgments in civil and commercial matters”

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