European Law Monitor

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newsThe EU's international cooperation on civil justice

In parallel with the adoption of EU instruments in the area of civil and commercial law, the EU’s exclusive external competence to negotiate and conclude international conventions has also increased. As a result, the EU (represented by the Commission) has gradually replaced Member States internationally. Where the EU cannot be formally a Contracting Party to an international Convention (because the participation of regional/international organisations is not foreseen in the convention), the EU exercises its competence through its Member States.

The EU promotes multilateral conventions in its relations with third countries in order to rely on a common legal framework on a wide range of issues. The aim is to enhance EU values, promote trade and protect EU citizens and businesses at the global level. The main international partner of the EU on civil justice cooperation is the Hague Conference on Private International Law, of which the EU is a full Member since 2007. Other relevant organisations are Uncitral (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) and Unidroit (International institute for the unification of private law), where the EU has an observer status. Conventions developed by these international organisations cover issues such as child protection ( in particular  child support and  prevention of child abduction), choice of court, recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, security interests, insolvency or protection of vulnerable adults.

So far, four major multilateral conventions have been negotiated by the Commission on behalf of the Union: the Lugano Convention with Norway, Switzerland and Iceland on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters basically extending the Union’s system to these three countries; the 2007 Hague Child Support Convention (ratified  by the EU in 2014) and its Protocol on applicable law (concluded in 2010) ensuring the protection of children and spouses in need to maintenance beyond the EU’s borders; the 2005 Hague Choice of Court Convention, ratified  by the EU in 2015, which ensures that a court chosen by parties is respected and the resulting judgment is recognised and enforced and the 2019 Hague Judgments Convention, which sets up a comprehensive system for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in civil or commercial matters.

The Commission has proposed on 16 July 2021 that the EU accedes to the Judgments Convention. The Council adopted the decision on accession on 12 July 2022 and the EU joined the Judgments Convention on 29 August of the same year. The EU accession to this convention aims at facilitating the recognition and enforcement of judgments given by courts in the EU in non-EU countries, while allowing foreign judgments to be recognised and enforced in the EU only where fundamental principles of EU law are respected.


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