International Commercial Arbitration in Belgium – Vol. 1 No. 1

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Author: Bernard Hanotiau*

Published: March 1990



Commercial Disputes
Enforcement of Arbitral Awards
New York Convention



Belgium is gaining an increasingly important role in international arbitration. Indeed, the country offers many geographical, political, and legislative advantages to international arbitration.

Parties generally prefer to choose a neutral site, such as Belgium, to resolve their international commercial disputes. For many parties, Belgium is more acceptable than larger European countries, like France, Germany, or Great Britain, even as Brussels grows in importance as the administrative center of the European Community.

Another important element that contributes to Belgium’s important role in the field of arbitration is the possibility of international enforcement of awards made in Belgium. Since Belgium is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of June 10, 1958 (New York Convention), the awards made in Belgium can be enforced in the more than eighty states that have ratified the Convention. Belgium is also a party to the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, signed in Geneva on April 21, 1961 (European Convention), and it has concluded various bilateral agreements providing for a simplified procedure of exequatur of foreign arbitral awards.1

The complaint most often raised against various national laws concerns the number of possible methods of recourse against final, partial, or interim awards. A new trend is therefore to limit the possibility of challenging the award in the country where it has been made and to transfer control to the country in which it is to be enforced. Belgium has shown the way in adopting, on March 27, 1985, a statute which adds paragraph 4 to article 1717 of the Judicial Code. The purpose of this provision is to limit court control over arbitration occurring in Belgium when neither of the parties has Belgian nationality, residency, or a branch or a seat of operation in Belgium. This amendment will be further discussed in section III.

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*J.D., 1970; Ph.D., 1979 (University of Louvain, Belgium); L.L.M., 1973 (Columbia University). Member of the Brussels and Paris Bar. Partner, Hanotiau, Evrard, Bruyns, Brussels. Professor of International and Comparative Law, Universities of Louvain and Namur, Member of the Institute of the International Chamber of Commerce, Paris. Member of the AAA Panel of Arbitrators. Member of the “Centre Beige pour l’Etude et la Practique de l’Arbitrage National et International” (CEPANI).