European Union Rules
European Union law requires every EU State to recognise and enforce the court orders of courts of other member States. This means that Irish court orders can be enforced against assets, property and persons in other EU states and that equally court orders issued by EU courts can be enforced in Ireland. A Court in one state will not generally reopen another Court’s decision given in another EU state, either on the basis of its jurisdiction (i.e. to power to make it) or on the merits of the claim.
There are two possible routes of enforcement. The first, which is the more common route, involves enforcement under the so-called Judgments Convention. This requires that an application is made to register the court order for enforcement. The second route is by a European Enforcement Order. Where this is available, the Irish or other EU Court certifies that it can be enforced in the other country as if it were a court order of that country.
Where a court order has been obtained in one State and needs to be enforced in the other, it is necessary to make an application under the Judgments Regulations to the courts or court offices of the other state to register it, so that it can be enforced. Once registered, it will have much the same effect as a court order in the enforcing country. Notice of registration should be served on the debtor or defendant. This is a simple notice and does not involve formal proceedings.
A court order may not be “recognised” and enforced if it is a default judgement i.e. one where the other party has not contested unless the defendant has been given a full and proper opportunity to organise his defence. There are other narrow circumstances where court orders will not be enforced on public policy grounds
Judgments Convention Application in England
The following relates to the enforcement of an Irish Judgment in England. This is intended to show the broad nature of the principle as it applies throughout the EU.
An application for registration of an Irish court order in England and Wales is made without notice or service to the other party. It must be supported by a witness statement, which must verify certain facts including
- names and addresses of creditor and debtor;
- whether the order is for payment of money;
- the amount unsatisfied;
- the amount of interest rate.
The statement must attach a certified copy of the Irish court order and any other documents required to show it is enforceable. In the case of an order that was not defended, proof of service of the legal proceedings must be given.
The documentation is checked by the court offices and remitted to a court officer. If the application is in order, permission to register the court order is given. The permission must then be served by the creditor on the debtor. The order must set out particulars of the registered court order, the name of the party making the application and the right to appeal registration.
The appeal period is one month from service of the registration order or two months if the debtor is outside England and Wales. After this period, the creditor wishing to enforce must prove by witness statement that he has served the registration order.
Judgments Convention Application in Ireland
An application to enforce a non-Irish judgment in Ireland is made by way of one-sided application to the Master of the High Court. It is necessary to prove the entitlement to enforcement by filing and proving certain documents to the court by an affidavit. The following must be produced.
- Details of creditor and debtor;
- Details of the monies, the amount paid and the interest;
- proof of service if undefended
- proof of the appropriate law
The application must include the EU judgment. The court order is generally declared to be enforceable immediately on compliance with the formalities. There is no discretion to re-examine the merits of the court order.
The notice of the order granting permission to enforce in Ireland must be served on the defendant personally or in such a manner as might be directed. It is possible for the defendant to appeal against the order, but this right is limited to challenging compliance with the formalities and certain other very limited grounds.
There are very limited grounds to refuse recognition. There may be exceptional circumstances where recognition would be contrary to public policy. However, in debt collection and enforcement cases, there are unlikely to be any grounds to challenge recognition. There may be grounds for a challenge that there is a contradictory judgment already in place in Ireland.
European Enforcement Order
Recent legislation has allowed for an even more direct method of enforcement of the court orders of other EU states. It is possible to obtain a “European Enforcement Order” (EEO) from the court office which issued the court order. The EEO is a method of enforcing foreign court orders within the European Union without the need for any intermediate proceedings in the enforcing Country. It is, therefore, possible to enforce the Court order in any Member State as if it were a court order of that State.
An EEO may be appropriate in debt collection cases. The court office can certify a judgment/court order or settlement as a European Enforcement Order. It is then directly enforceable as if it was a home country court order. This means only one court office needs to be involved. These orders do not need to be registered before qualifying for enforcement in the EU.
A European enforcement order is only available in uncontested claims i.e. where the defendant has accepted the claim or the debtor does not appear. The court making the order certifies the order as a European enforcement order. There is no mechanism to challenge an EEO on the merits in the state where enforcement is sought. It can only be challenged in the state in which the order was originally made.
The home court may certify all or part of the court order as a European enforcement order. The EEO can also extend to cover any costs order made, provided that the debtor has not specifically objected to his obligation to bear such costs. The EEO takes effect on the same terms as the original court order itself.
The rules lay down minimum standards for court orders that may qualify to be certified as an EEO. These rules are to ensure that the debtor has been informed about the court action, has had the opportunity to participate in sufficient time and is aware of the consequences of non-participation.
A person seeking to enforce a European enforcement order in another EU country must lodge at the court at which enforcement proceedings are to be brought, the following
- a court order satisfying authenticity conditions;
- a certified copy of the EEO;
- a translation if appropriate
The court order will then be enforced as if it was a court order of that country.
The same procedure applies equally to the enforcement of EU court orders certified as EEOs in Ireland. It is possible to proceed to enforce it in Ireland without the need to apply to have it recognised in Ireland.
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