15 September 2016

Case Report: landmark Spanish judgment on Article IV of the New York Convention

This article was written by Alfredo Guerrero (partner) and Marlen Estevez Sanz (associate).

On 20 July 2015 the Court of Appeal of Madrid rendered a landmark decision on Article IV of the New York Convention relating to the formal conditions for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Spain. This decision confirms the pro-enforcement and pro-arbitration trend of the Spanish courts, lead by the Supreme Court.

Article IV.1.b) of the New York Convention provides that the party seeking enforcement of a foreign award needs to supply “the original [arbitration] agreement or a duly certified copy thereof”. The Spanish Court found that Article IV.1.b) should not be construed too strictly, considering that Article IV.1.b) only requires the party seeking enforcement to bring evidence of the parties’ intention to submit to arbitration. The Spanish Court accepted that there is no need to file the original, or a duly certified copy, of the arbitration agreement if the unequivocal intention of the parties could be evidenced in any other manner. For instance, in that case, the Court considered essential the fact that the party challenging the enforcement application appeared before the arbitral tribunal and accepted the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

In this decision the Court also stressed that public policy shall be construed more narrowly when applied to international matters. In the context of international arbitration, Spanish public policy only comprises the ‘essential’ principles of the Spanish legal system, as reflected in the Spanish Constitution.

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