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Tacit Submission to Jurisdiction: The Scope of Article 18 of the EEC Jurisdiction Convention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2009

Th.M. de Boer
Professor of Law at the University of Amsterdam; director of the Centre of Foreign Law and Private International Law, University of Amsterdam.
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Knowing Bert Voskuil's interest in matters of international judicial jurisdiction and in the relation between jurisdiction and party autonomy, I thought he might be pleased with an essay on the interpretation of Article 18 of the EEC Jurisdiction Convention. Even so, it is with some trepidation that I venture into an area in which he is undoubtedly the expert. My observations will not be new to someone who has explored the procedural aspects of private international law as extensively as Bert Voskuil, and I have little hope of surprising him with my conclusions. Nevertheless, the question whether, and to what extent, jurisdiction can be based on implied prorogation rather than on an express jurisdiction agreement has scarcely been discussed in Dutch legal literature, and this Liber Amicorwn offers me a welcome opportunity to examine this subject a little further.

Research Article
Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Press 1991

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1. As attested to by his essay ‘Party Autonomy in Matters of International Judicial Jurisdiction in the Netherlands — Farewell to the Principle of Sovereignty’, in Adriaan Bos and Hugo Siblesz, eds., Realism in Law-Making, Essays on International Law in Honour of Willem Riphagen (1986) p. 261 et seq.Google Scholar

2. Supra, n. 1.

3. HR 1 February 1985, NJ 1985 no. 698 (annotated by J.C. Schultsz); S & S 1985 no. 49.

4. Ait. 429C(2) of the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure is included in the title on the ‘adjudication of cases introduced by a petition’. It denies jurisdiction to a Dutch court ‘if the petition is insufficiently connected with the Dutch legal sphere’. It is generally assumed that this provision does not extend to contentious proceedings: cf., the annotation by J.C. Schultsz of HR 26 October 1984, NJ 1985 no. 696; Strikwerda, L., Inleiding tot hetNederlandselnternationaalPrivaatrechtGoogle Scholar [Introduction to Dutch private international law], 2nd edn. (1990) no. 228.

5. I have borrowed the English translation from Voskuil's essay, supra n. 1, p. 273.

6. As many commentators have noted, the French text is slightly different: ‘Outre les cas où sa compétence résulte d'autres dispositions de la présente Convention, le juge d'un Etat contractant devant lequel le défendeur comparaît est compétent Cette règle n'est pas applicable si la comparution a pour objet de contester la compétence ou s'il existe une autre jurisdiction exclusivement compétente en vertu de l'article 16.’

In the English, German, Italian and Dutch texts, defendant's appearance should be ‘solely’ (‘nur’, ‘solo’, ‘uitsluitend’) to contest jurisdiction. The Danish text seems to be similarly worded, but the Irish text is said to be closer to the French version: European Court of Justice 24 June 1981, Case No. 150/80 (Elefanten Schuh v. Jacqmain), [1981] ECR 1671 at 1678. In the Accession Treaties of 1978, 1982 and 1989, the original text of Art. 18 was kept intact, except for a cosmetic change in the Dutch version: ‘Buiten de gevallen dat…’ was changed to ‘Buiten de gevallen waarin…’ in the San Sebastian Treaty. In the Lugano Convention of 16 September 1988, the French and English texts of Art. 18, including the discrepancy just mentioned, are identical to those of the EEC Jurisdiction Convention.

7. Cf., Kaye, Peter, Civil Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments, The application in England and Wales of the Brussels Convention of 1968 on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters under the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (1987) p. 1116 et seq.Google Scholar

8. Detailed information on these subjects can be found in the following commentaries: Kaye, , supra n. 7, p. 1117Google Scholar et seq.; Commentator, Gert Müller, in Bülow, Arthur, Böckstiegel, Karl-Heinz, Geimer, Reinhold and Schütze, Rolf A., eds., Der internationale Rechtsverkehr in Zivil- und Handelssachen, Quellensammlung mit Erläuterungen, loose-leaf edn., p. 606–153Google Scholar et seq.; Geimer, Reinhold and Schütze, Rolf A., Internationale Urteilsanerkennung, BandI, 1. Halbband: Das EWG-Übereinkommen über the gerichtliche Zuständigkeit und the Vollstreckung gerichtlicher Entscheidungen in Zivil- und Han-delssachen, Systematischer Kommentar (1983) p. 947 et seq.Google Scholar

General information on Art. 18 will be found in the following books and articles, a list which is by no means exhaustive. In French: Droz, Georges A.L., Compétence judiciaire et effets des jugements dans le Marché Commun (Etude de la Convention de Bruxelles du 27 septembre 1968) (1972) p. 137Google Scholar et seq.; Weser, Martha, Convention communautaire sur la compétence judiciaire et l'exécution des décisions. Complété par l'étude des droits internes et des traités bilatéraux des Etats contractants (1975) p. 317Google Scholar et seq.; Gothot, Pierre and Holleaux, Dominique, La Convention de Bruxelles du 27 septembre 1968, Compétence judiciaire et effets des jugements dans la CEE (1985) p. 110Google Scholar et seq. In German: Kropholler, Jan, Europäisches Zivilprozessrecht, Kommentar zu EuGVÜ, 3rd edn. (1991) p. 217Google Scholar et seq.; Habscheid, Walther J., ‘Anerkennung und Vollstreckung von Urteilen aus EWG-Staaten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschlandé, ZfRV (1973) pp. 262270; p. 266Google Scholar; Arthur Bülow, Book Review Georges Droz, op. cit., RabelsZ (1974) pp. 262–276; p. 266 et seq.; Samtleben, Jürgen, ‘Internationale Gerichtsstandsvereinbarungen nach dem EWG-Übereinkommen und nach der Gerichtsstandsnovelle’, NJW (1974) pp. 15901596; p. 1594Google Scholar; Stauder, Dieter, ‘Die Anwendung des EWG-Gerichtsstands-und Vollstreckungsübereinkommens auf Klagen im gewerblichen Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht’, GRUR International (1976) pp. 465477 and pp. 510520; p. 473Google Scholar. In English: Dashwood, Alan, Hacon, Richard and White, Robin, A Guide to the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Convention (1987) p. 130Google Scholar et seq. Ih Dutch: H.E. Ras, ‘De betekenis van het EEG-Executieverdrag voor de rechter van het land waar een onder het Verdrag vallende zaak wordt aangebracht’ [The significance of the EEC Judgments Convention for the court of the country where a suit falling under the Convention is brought], Tijdschrift voor Privaatrecht (1975) pp. 851916; p. 896Google Scholar et seq.; A.V.M. Struycken and J.E. Krings, ‘De rechterlijke bevoegdheid volgens bet E.E.G. Jurisdictie- en Executieverdrag’ [Adjudicatory jurisdiction under tibe EEC Jurisdiction and Judgments Convention], Mededelingen van de Nederlandse Vereniging voor Intemationaal Recht, [Reports of the Netherlands International Law Association] No. 77 (1978) p. 39Google Scholar et seq., p. 56 et seq., p. 102 et seq., p. 121;Verheal, J.P., Rechtsmacht in het Nederlandse internationaal privaatrecht, Deel 1, Het EEG Bevoegdheid- en ExecutieverdragGoogle Scholar [Jurisdiction in Dutch private international law, Part I, The EEC Jurisdiction and Judgments Convention] (1982) p. 104 et seq.; P. Vlas, ‘Europees Jurisdictie- en Executieverdrag (EEX)’ [European Jurisdiction and Judgments Convention], in Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering [Civil Procedure], loose-leaf edn., at Art. 18.

9. Art 5(1): place of performance; Art. 5(2): domicile of maintenance creditor; Art. 5(3): place where the harmful event occurred; Art 5(5): place where the branch, agency or other establishment is situated; Art. 5(6): domicile of the trust; Art. 5(7): place where the cargo or freight has been arrested or where bail or other security has been given.

10. Art 5(2): connection with ancillary proceedings concerning the status of a person; Art 5(4): connection with ancillary criminal proceedings; Art 6(1): connection with proceedings against a co-defendant; Art. 6(2): connection with original proceedings; Art 6(3): connection between original claim and counterclaim; Art. 6A: connection with the action relating to liability.

11. Geographical connections: Art. 8(1X1): domicile of the insurer; Art 8(1)(2): domicile of the policy-holder; Art 8(2): branch, agency or other establishment of the insurer; Art 9: place where the harmful event occurred; Art 11(1): domicile of the defendant Accessory jurisdiction: Art 8(1)(3): connection with leading insurer, Art 10: various connections between the insurer, the insured and/or the policy-holder; Art 11(2): connection with original claim.

12. Geographical connections: Art. 14(1) and 14(2): domicile of the consumer or the other party. Accessary jurisdiction: Art. 14(3): connection with original claim.

13. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the situation at the time the agreement was made is decisive, or the situation at the time proceedings are instituted. Most commentators seem to be in favour of the former solution, as it would prevent the parties from circumventing a jurisdiction agreement by moving to a non-Contracting State. Cf., Gothot, and Holleaux, , supra n. 8, p. 94Google Scholar et seq.; Kaye, , supra n. 7, p. 1082Google Scholar et seq.; Droz, , supra n. 8, p. 118.Google Scholar

14. Cf., Droz, , supra a 8, p. 117:Google Scholar

‘Tout cela explique qu'on n'ait pas voulu faite du territoire de la Communauté une sorte de “paradis” qui permettrait à des contractants n'y étant pas intégrés d'y trouver toujours un juge compétent Le bénéfice de l'article 17 n'est accordé que si l'un des contractants au moins, par son intégration dans la Communauté, met en jeu les intérêts communautaires.’

15. Cf., commentator Gerd Müller, supra n. 8, at Art. 18 I, p. 606–154: ‘Ebensowenig kann einem bloßen Beispielsfall des Berichts allgemeine Geltung beigemessen werden, daß stets der beklagte seinen Wohnsitz in einem Vertragsstaat hat.’

16. Habscheid, , supra n. 8, p. 266.Google Scholar

17. Samtleben, , supra n. 8, p. 1594.Google Scholar

18. Cf., Droz, , supra n. 8, no. 221, p. 137:Google Scholar

‘A vrai dire, lorsque fut rédigé l'article 18, l'article 17 ne comportait pas encore la condition relative au domicile. Ce n'est qu'au dernier moment que la condition a été introduite pour ce qui concerne l'accord d'élection de for proprement dit et l'on n'examina même pas la question de savoir si l'article 18 se prêtait lui aussi à un telle exigence.’

19. Samtleben, , loe. cit., p. 1594Google Scholar n. 57, and p. 1591, text accompanying n. 19. In the example given, the parties are domiciled in the Netherlands and Germany, whereas the place of performance is in Rotterdam. While the German party could be sued in Rotterdam under Art 5(1), the Dutch party could only be sued in the court of his domicile (Eindhoven), not in Rotterdam ‘as Dutch national law, applicable by virtue of Art 2, does not recognize the place of performance as a ground of jurisdiction.’ Basically, this example rests on the distinction between rules of adjudicatory jurisdiction under the Convention and rules of venue under national law. A more compelling example in this context would be the case in which one of me parties is domiciled in a non-Contracting State, let us say Switzerland, the other party in Germany, whereas the place of performance would still be Rotterdam. The Swiss party could sue the German defendant either in Germany under Art 2, or in the Netherlands under Art 5(1), but the German party could not sue the Swiss defendant in the Netherlands.

20. Bülow, , supra a 8, at p. 267:Google Scholar

‘Wenn im Laufe der Erörterung Art. 17 geändert ist, ohne daß Art. 4 einen Zusatz erhielt, so liegt der Grund dafür nicht in der Vergeßlichkeit der Experten. Vielmehr ist er in allgemeinen grundsätzlichen Erwägungen zu suchen…: es geht hier um das Verhältnis der lex generalis zu der lex specialis. Art 4 ist unter den Abschnitt “Allgemeine Vorschriften” eingeordnet, während sich Art 17 in einem besonderen Abschnitt als lex specialis befindet […] Für Art 18, der nur einen Sonderfall der Prorogation darstellt, gilt das gleiche.’

21. Müller, supra n. 8, comment on Art. 18 I.

22. Geimer, and Schütze, , supra n. 8, p. 196Google Scholar, fn. 61 and accompanying text

23. Ibid. p. 208.

24. Kropholler, , supra n. 8, p. 218 et seq.Google Scholar

25. Struycken, A.V.M., Naar eenheid van rechtsbedeling in EuropaGoogle Scholar [Towards a uniform administration of justice in Europe], Inaugural Lecture Nijmegen, 1971.

26. Stniycken, A.V.M. and Krings, J.E., ‘Derechterujke bevoegdhrid volgens het E.E.G. Jurisdictie-en Executieverdrag’Google Scholar [Adjudicatory jurisdiction under the EEC Jurisdiction and Judgments Convention], Mededelingen van de Nederlandse Vereniging voor Intemationaal Recht, No. 77 (1978).Google Scholar

27. Struycken, , supra n. 26, p. 62.Google Scholar

28. It is not quite clear to me, however, if Struycken based his conclusion on the text of Art. 17, limiting the scope of this provision to situations in which one of the parties is domiciled in a Contracting State (or presenting at least some other ‘objective connecting factor’), or on his personal conviction that such a connection should be present The paragraph from which I have just quoted opens with a reservation: ‘If it is correct mat an objective connecting factor must be required for the attribution of jurisdiction to European civil courts and mat, in the absence thereof, an express jurisdiction agreement must therefore be rejected as the sole ground of jurisdiction, Article 18 must be interpreted in the same vein.’ Ibid.; emphasis added.

29. Cf., the authors mentioned in n. 8: Gothot and Holleaux at no. 190; Weser at p. 318; Ras at p. 897; Verheul at p. 104, all defending an unlimited scope. On the other hand: Bülow and Böckstiegel, comment on Art. 18 I, fn. 4; Geimer and Schütze at p. 207, fn. 112; Kropholler at p. 144, fn. 5, in their descriptions of the extended scope.

30. Droz, , supra n. 8, no. 221 at p. 138.Google Scholar

31. Ibid., at p. 144, no. 231: ‘L'article 18 doit donc suivre le même sort que l'article 17.’

32. Cf., his view on the Community as a haven of civil litigation for non-EEC domiciliaries: supra n. 14.

33. Kaye, , supra n. 7, p. 1125; emphasis added.Google Scholar

34. Stauder, , supra n. 8, p. 473Google Scholar: ‘Sie ist vorzuziehen, da the stillschweigende Gerichtsstandsabrede als Fiktion einer ausdrücklichen Abrede keinen engen Anwendungsfall ihr gegenüber bilden sollte.’

35. Cf., the sceptic remark by Germer, and Schütze, , supra n. 8, p. 208Google Scholar m. 115: ‘Allerdings läßt das von Stauder aaO gebrachte Beispiel Zweifel aufkommen, ob er tatsächlich eine so weite Anwendung des Art 18 für the Begründung der internationalen Zuständigkeit propagiert oder ob seine Ausführun gen nur für the örtliche Zuständigkeit gelten sollen.’

36. Weser, , supra n. 8, p. 318.Google Scholar

37. Ras, , supra n. 8, p. 897; emphasis added.Google Scholar

38. Gothot, and Holleaux, , supra n. 8, p. 111 no. 190.Google Scholar

39. Verbeul, , supra n. 8, p. 104.Google Scholar

40. Vlas, supra n. 8, Art. 18, comment 1. See also: Balk, Greta, Internationale forumkeuze voor en na de inwerkingtreding van het EEG-ExecutieverdragGoogle Scholar [Choice-of-forum clauses before and after the EEC Judgments Convention] (1976) p. 24.

41. Cf., the position taken by Samtleben, supra, text accompanying no. 17–19.

42. Cf., Droz, , supra n. 8, p. 144Google Scholar: ‘Finalement le Camité retint cette solution [viz., the condition that one of the parties — rather than the defendant — should be domiciled in a Contracting State] mais oublia de revenir sur le texte de l'article 4 et de réserver expressément l'application de l'article 17…’ (at p. 144). See also: Kaye, , supra n. 7, p. 680Google Scholar, fn. 1510 with further references.

43. This is the view advocated by Bülow, supra, text accompanying n. 20.

44. European Court of Justice 24 June 1981, Case No. 150/80, [1981] ECR 1671; NJ 1981 no. 546.

45. See also Spitdey v. Sommer Exploitation S.A., European Court of Justice 7 March 1985, Case No. 48/84, CMLR (1985) p. 507 at p. 517; [1985] ECR 787 at 798, in which it was said that ‘Article 18 in particular is based on the idea that, by entering an appearance before the court seised of the proceedings by the plaintiff, without contesting that court's jurisdiction, the defendant is by implication signifying his consent to the hearing of the case by a court other than that designated by the other provisions of the Convention’.

46. Cf., Bülow and Müller, respectively: text accompanying nn. 20 and 21.

47. Supra, text accompanying n. 19.

48. Cf., Droz, text accompanying n. 30.

49. In its Piscator decision, supra n. 3 and accompanying text, the Dutch Supreme Court adopted this standard for a valid jurisdiction agreement under Dutch national law.

50. When the defendant is an EEC domiciliary, Art 17 operates as a rule of ‘EEC venue’. On the other hand, it has an attributory function when the plaintiff — and not the defendant—is domiciled in a Contracting State: jurisdiction is conferred on the chosen court even if — under the Convention — no other court in any of the Contracting States would be obliged to assume jurisdiction. See also:

Struycken, , supra n. 26, p. 58Google Scholar et seq., who reduces the attributory function of Art 17 to the situation in which, without an agreement, neither the Convention nor national law would confer jurisdiction upon any court within the EEC.

51. Cf., Droz, , supra n. 8, no. 50 at p. 41Google Scholar; Kaye, , supra n. 7, p. 253 et seq.Google Scholar

52. Most likely, this situation would occur in default proceedings. If the defendant fails to enter an appearance, relying on the assumption mat the court seised will declare of its own motion that it has no jurisdiction, there is no remedy available to him at the time enforcement is sought.

53. Not all of the special jurisdiction grounds listed in Art. 5 are known in all Contracting States. For instance: a plaintiff domiciled in Hamburg could sue a defendant domiciled in Brussels in a Dutch court on the strength of Art 5(1) or Art 5(3), but if the defendant were domiciled in Switzerland, the action could not be brought in the Netherlands, unless defendant's goods could be attached there (forum arresti).

54. Cf., Struycken, , supra n. 26, p. 19 et seq.; p. 49 et seq.Google Scholar

55. Even if the defendant is domiciled in the forum state and plaintiff invokes one of the special jurisdiction grounds under Art 5, the court seised may refuse to assume jurisdiction, as its national law — applicable by virtue of Art. 2 — may not recognize such grounds.

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