Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (Belgium v. Switzerland)
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Overview of the case
On 21 December 2009, the Kingdom of Belgium initiated proceedings against the Swiss Confederation in respect of a dispute concerning primarily the interpretation and application of the Lugano Convention of 16 September 1988 on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. In particular, the case related to a dispute between the main shareholders in Sabena, the former Belgian airline. Belgium argued that Switzerland was breaching the Lugano Convention and other international obligations by virtue of the decision of its courts to refuse to recognize a decision in a Belgian court on the liability of the Swiss shareholders to the Belgian shareholders (including the Belgian State and three companies owned by the Belgian State).
In its Order of 4 February 2010, the Court fixed time-limits for the filing of the Memorial of Belgium and the Counter-Memorial of Switzerland. In its Order of 10 August 2010, the Court subsequently extended the time-limits to 23 November 2010 for the filing of the Memorial of Belgium and 24 October 2011 for the filing of the Counter-Memorial of Switzerland. The Memorial of Belgium was filed within the time-limit thus extended. On 18 February 2011, Switzerland raised preliminary objections in respect of the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of the Application.
By a letter dated 21 March 2011, the Agent of Belgium informed the Court that his Government “in concert with the Commission of the European Union, considers that it can discontinue the proceedings instituted [by Belgium] against Switzerland” and requested the Court “to make an order recording Belgium’s discontinuance of the proceedings and directing that the case be removed” from the Court’s General List.
In his letter, the Agent cited as the reason for the Belgian Government’s request to discontinue the proceedings the preliminary objections raised in the case by Switzerland. In the letter, the Belgian Government explained in particular that it had taken note of the fact that
“Switzerland states . . . that the reference by the [Swiss] Federal Supreme Court in its 30 September 2008 judgment to the ‘non-recognizability’ of a future Belgian judgment does not have the force of res judicata and does not bind either the lower cantonal courts or the Federal Supreme Court itself, and that there is therefore nothing to prevent a Belgian judgment, once handed down, from being recognized in Switzerland in accordance with the applicable treaty provision”.
Since Switzerland did not oppose the said discontinuance, the Court, placing on record the discontinuance by Belgium of the proceedings, ordered that the case be removed from its List (Order of 5 April 2011).
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.