Dispute Resolution

Serbia & Montenegro: Enforcing Foreign Court Judgments and Arbitral Awards

An Austrian company might believe it did a good job if it convinced a Serbian party to accept jurisdiction of a court in Austria. On the contrary — it ensured itself a court decision which could never be enforced against its debtor in Serbia. Such Austrian court judgment could strike the same barrier in Montenegro as well. Although a dispute is the last thing to expect as a result of a promising business deal, it has to be among the first things on the agenda when negotiating a transaction.

Choos­ing a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion clause is not sim­ply a ques­tion of whether you pre­fer resolv­ing dis­putes before a court or via arbi­tra­tion. The clause should pro­vide the par­ties with a fast, reli­able, acces­si­ble, and least expen­sive forum for dis­pute res­o­lu­tion. At the same time, it should ensure that the litigation/arbitration ends with a final and bind­ing deci­sion that will be eas­i­ly enforce­able in a juris­dic­tion where the debtor has most of the assets. Oth­er­wise, it is use­less.

Recognition and enforcement of foreign court judgments

In dis­putes with an inter­na­tion­al ele­ment, par­ties can select the juris­dic­tion of a for­eign court. But before such for­eign court judg­ment can be enforced in Ser­bia or Mon­tene­gro, it must be recog­nised by local courts in a sep­a­rate non-con­tentious pro­ce­dure. After being recog­nised, the for­eign court judg­ment is equal in force to a domes­tic one and can be enforced.

  • Ser­bian and Mon­tene­grin courts will refuse to recog­nise the for­eign court judg­ment if: (i) it is con­trary to the pub­lic order of Ser­bia, (ii) there is exclu­sive com­pe­tence of Ser­bian courts, (iii) the oth­er par­ty was not grant­ed the right to defend, or (iv) there is already a final and bind­ing deci­sion in the same mat­ter between the same par­ties. The court will hold the recog­ni­tion pro­ce­dure if there is already an on-going pro­ce­dure on the same legal mat­ter before domes­tic courts.
  • Reci­procity is also a require­ment for recog­ni­tion of for­eign court judge­ment. As a gen­er­al rule, in both coun­tries fac­tu­al reci­procity would suf­fice, mean­ing there would be no need for a bilat­er­al arrange­ment to that effect. Addi­tion­al­ly, there is a rebut­table pre­sump­tion that reci­procity exists, so the oppos­ing par­ty must prove the lack of reci­procity with the coun­try of ori­gin of the rel­e­vant court judg­ment.

Sur­pris­ing­ly, and despite strong ties between Ser­bia and Aus­tria, there is no reci­procity in recog­ni­tion of com­mer­cial court judg­ments between them. This is because Aus­tria requires diplo­mat­ic reci­procity. As there is no bilat­er­al agree­ment for recog­ni­tion and enforce­ment of judg­ments of com­mer­cial courts, Aus­tri­an courts will refuse to recog­nise Ser­bian court judg­ments. There­fore, even fac­tu­al reci­procity between these two coun­tries does not exist. This lack of reci­procity with Aus­tria is already exam­ined in court prac­tice in Ser­bia due to which Ser­bian courts can refuse recog­ni­tion of the Aus­tri­an court judg­ment even with­out objec­tion of the oppos­ing par­ty.

Giv­en the lack of diplo­mat­ic reci­procity between Mon­tene­gro and Aus­tria, which implies that Mon­tene­grin court judg­ments would not be enforced in Aus­tria either, the Mon­tene­grin court can also refuse the Aus­tri­an court judge­ment. How­ev­er, unlike in Ser­bia, the lack of reci­procity between Aus­tria and Mon­tene­gro for the pur­pose of recog­ni­tion of the for­eign court judg­ment has not been exam­ined in prac­tice.

Recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral award

In prin­ci­pal, a domes­tic arbi­tral award is one ren­dered in arbi­tra­tion seat­ed in Serbia/Montenegro, while a for­eign arbi­tra­tion award is one ren­dered in arbi­tra­tion seat­ed abroad. A domes­tic arbi­tra­tion award can be enforced direct­ly in Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro since it has the force of a final domes­tic court deci­sion. How­ev­er, a for­eign arbi­tral award must first be recog­nised by the com­pe­tent court in Serbia/Montenegro.

The recog­ni­tion and enforce­ment of for­eign arbi­tral awards in Ser­bia is gov­erned by the Ser­bian Law on Arbi­tra­tion, while in Mon­tene­gro this mat­ter is reg­u­lat­ed by the Mon­tene­grin Pri­vate Inter­na­tion­al Law. Both Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro are also sig­na­to­ries to the New York Con­ven­tion on Recog­ni­tion and Enforce­ment of Arbi­tral Awards (the New York Con­ven­tion) and the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion of Inter­na­tion­al Com­mer­cial Arbi­tra­tion of 1961.

  • Grounds for refusal of recog­ni­tion under the Ser­bian Law on Arbi­tra­tion cor­re­spond to those list­ed in Arti­cle V of the New York Con­ven­tion, and they are not coun­try spe­cif­ic. There are two groups of rea­sons, one which courts exam­ine ex offi­cio and the oth­er which courts exam­ine only at a party’s request. Reci­procity is not a require­ment for enforce­ment; thus the coun­try of ori­gin should not be a con­cern from that aspect.
  • While in Ser­bia reci­procity is not required for recog­ni­tion of the for­eign arbi­tral award, such con­di­tions still exist under the Mon­tene­grin Pri­vate Inter­na­tion­al Law and apply to the extent the New York Con­ven­tion applies.
  • Recog­ni­tion of a for­eign arbi­tral award can be the sub­ject mat­ter of an inde­pen­dent pro­ceed­ing, or it can be decid­ed as a provisional/preliminary ques­tion in an enforce­ment pro­ceed­ing.

The advan­tage of an inde­pen­dent pro­ceed­ing is that once an arbi­tral award is recog­nised, it obtains the force of a domes­tic final court judg­ment. In oth­er words, it has effect towards every­one and can be enforced in as many enforce­ment pro­ceed­ings as nec­es­sary to recov­er the entire amount of the claim. There is no need to repeat the recog­ni­tion process.

The dis­ad­van­tage is that this pro­ceed­ing can take a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time if the appeal is lodged. On the oth­er hand, recog­ni­tion of the for­eign arbi­tral award as a provisional/preliminary ques­tion direct­ly in the enforce­ment pro­ce­dure can be faster than the inde­pen­dent pro­ceed­ing. How­ev­er, if recog­ni­tion of an arbi­tral award is decid­ed as pro­vi­sion­al ques­tion with­in the enforce­ment pro­ceed­ing, then the recog­ni­tion is effec­tive only in such enforce­ment pro­ceed­ing. In oth­er words, if the lender does not man­age to enforce the entire claim in one pro­ceed­ing, it would have to go through the recog­ni­tion process again.

Surprisingly, and despite strong ties between Serbia and Austria, there is no reciprocity in recognition of commercial court judgments between them.

Srbija i Crna Gora: Izvršenje stranih sudskih i arbitražnih odluka

Austrijska kompanija bi mogla da pomisli da je uspela u pregovorima ako ubedi ugovornu stranu iz Republike Srbije da prihvati nadležnost suda u Austriji. Naprotiv, sebi je obezbedila sudsku presudu koja nije izvršiva nad dužnikom u Republici Srbiji. Presuda austrijskog suda mogla bi naići na istu tu barijeru i u Crnoj Gori. Iako je spor poslednja stvar koja se očekuje nakon uspešnih pregovora perspektivne poslovne transakcije, on mora biti među prvim stavkama na dnevnom redu prilikom pregovora o transakciji.

Izbor klauzule o reša­van­ju sporo­va nije samo pitan­je toga da li stran­ka više voli da reša­va sporove pred sudom ili pred arbi­tražom. Smisao te klauzule je da obezbe­di stranka­ma brz, pouz­dan, dos­tu­pan i cen­ovno najpo­voljni­ji način reša­van­ja sporo­va. Istovre­meno, ona tre­ba da obezbe­di da se sud­s­ki postupak/arbitraža okonča donošen­jem pravos­nažne odluke koja će biti izvrši­va u juris­dik­ci­ji u kojoj se nalazi najveći deo imovine dužni­ka. U suprot­nom, ova klauzu­la će biti besmis­le­na.

Priznanje i izvršenje stranih sudskih odluka

U sporovi­ma sa stran­im ele­men­tom, stranke mogu izabrati nadležnost stra­nog suda. Ali da bi se pre­su­da tog stra­nog suda izvrši­la u Repub­li­ci Srbi­ji i Crnoj Gori, neophod­no je da je priz­na­ju domaći sudovi u poseb­nom van­parničnom pos­tup­ku. Nakon priz­nan­ja, strana sud­s­ka odlu­ka ima snagu domaće sudske odluke i izvrš­na je.

  • Sudovi u Repub­li­ci Srbi­ji i Crnoj Gori mogu odbiti priz­nan­je strane sudske odluke: (i) ako je u suprot­nos­ti sa javn­im poretkom Repub­like Srbije/Crne Gore, (ii) ako u odnos­noj stvari pos­to­ji isključi­va nadležnost sudo­va Repub­like Srbije/Crne Gore, (iii) ako lice pro­tiv koga je odlu­ka done­ta nije mog­lo učestvo­vati u pos­tup­ku, ili (iv) ako je u istoj stvari među istim stranka­ma sud već doneo pravos­nažnu odluku. Sud će zas­ta­ti sa priz­nan­jem strane sudske odluke ako je pred domaćim sudom u istoj stvari rani­je pokrenu­ta par­ni­ca.
  • Pre­duslov za priz­nan­je strane sudske odluke je i uza­jam­nost (rec­i­procitet). Uopšteno gov­oreći, u obe države dovolj­na je fak­tič­ka uza­jam­nost, što znači da nije neophod­no da pos­to­ji zaključen bilat­er­al­ni spo­razum. Osim toga, pos­to­jan­je uza­jam­nos­ti se pret­postavl­ja dok se suprot­no ne dokaže; sto­ga suprot­na strana mora da dokaže nepos­to­jan­je uza­jam­nos­ti sa državom čiji je sud doneo odnos­nu odluku.

Izne­nađu­je da, uprkos jakim veza­ma između Srbi­je i Aus­tri­je, između njih ne pos­to­ji uza­jam­nost u pogle­du priz­nan­ja odlu­ka privred­nih sudo­va. To je zbog toga što Aus­tri­ja zahte­va diplo­matsku uza­jam­nost. Poš­to ne pos­to­ji bilat­er­al­ni spo­razum o priz­nan­ju i izvršen­ju odlu­ka privred­nih sudo­va, sudovi u Aus­tri­ji ne priz­na­ju odluke sudo­va Repub­like Srbi­je. Sto­ga između ovih zemal­ja ne pos­to­ji čak ni fak­tič­ka uza­jam­nost. Taj nedostatak uza­jam­nos­ti sa Aus­tri­jom je već bio pred­met preispi­ti­van­ja u sud­skoj prak­si u Srbi­ji, kao razlog na osnovu koga sudovi Repub­like Srbi­je mogu odbiti priz­nan­je pre­sude aus­tri­jskog suda i bez prigov­o­ra suprotne stranke.

S obzirom na nepos­to­jan­je diplo­matske uza­jam­nos­ti između Crne Gore i Aus­tri­je, iz koje prois­tiče da ni pre­sude sudo­va Crne Gore neće biti izvršne u Aus­tri­ji, i sud u Crnoj Gori bi mogao odbiti priz­nan­je pre­sude aus­tri­jskog suda. Među­tim, za raz­liku od Srbi­je, nepos­to­jan­je uza­jam­nos­ti između Aus­tri­je i Crne Gore za potrebe priz­nan­ja stranih sud­skih odlu­ka nije još uvek potvrđeno u prak­si.

Priznanje i izvršenje stranih arbitražnih odluka

U načelu gov­oreći, domaća arbi­traž­na odlu­ka je odlu­ka done­ta u arbi­traži čije je mesto u Srbiji/Crnoj Gori, dok je strana arbi­traž­na odlu­ka ona koju je donela arbi­traža čije je mesto van Srbije/Crne Gore. Domaća arbi­traž­na odlu­ka izvrša­va se direk­t­no u Srbi­ji odnos­no Crnoj Gori poš­to ima pravnu snagu domaće pravos­nažne sudske pre­sude. Među­tim, strana arbi­traž­na odlu­ka ima snagu domaće pravos­nažne sudske pre­sude tek poš­to je priz­na nadležni sud Srbije/Crne Gore.

Priz­nan­je i izvršen­je stranih arbi­tražnih odlu­ka u Repub­li­ci Srbi­ji ure­đu­je se Zakonom o arbi­traži Repub­like Srbi­je, dok se ovo pitan­je u Crnoj Gori ure­đu­je Zakonom o reša­van­ju suko­ba zakona sa propisi­ma drugih zemal­ja Crne Gore. I Srbi­ja i Crna Gora su pot­pis­nice Nju­jorške kon­ven­ci­je o priz­nan­ju i izvršen­ju stranih arbi­tražnih odlu­ka (Nju­jorš­ka kon­ven­ci­ja) i Evropske kon­ven­ci­je o među­nar­o­d­noj trgovin­skoj arbi­traži iz 1961. godine.

  • Razlozi za odbi­jan­je priz­nan­ja i izvršen­ja pre­ma Zakonu o arbi­traži Repub­like Srbi­je odgo­vara­ju razloz­i­ma nave­den­im u članu V Nju­jorške kon­ven­ci­je, i oni su isti neza­v­is­no od strane države u kojoj je arbi­traž­na odlu­ka done­ta. Pos­to­je dve grupe razlo­ga, od kojih jed­nu grupu sudovi ispitu­ju po službenoj dužnos­ti, a drugu samo na zahtev strana­ka. Uza­jam­nost nije pre­duslov za izvršen­je; sa ove tačke glediš­ta, u suš­ti­ni, nije važno koja je zeml­ja porekla arbi­tražne odluke.
  • Iako u Srbi­ji nije neophod­no da pos­to­ji uza­jam­nost da bi strana arbi­traž­na odlu­ka bila priz­na­ta, taj uslov još uvek pos­to­ji u Zakonu o reša­van­ju suko­ba zakona sa propisi­ma drugih zemal­ja Crne Gore, a pri­men­ju­je u meri u kojoj se ne pri­men­ju­je Nju­jorš­ka kon­ven­ci­ja.
  • O priz­nan­ju strane arbi­tražne odluke sud može da reša­va u poseb­nom pos­tup­ku, ili kao o prethod­nom pitan­ju u izvršnom pos­tup­ku.

Pred­nost reša­van­ja u neza­v­is­nom pos­tup­ku je ta da arbi­traž­na odlu­ka po priz­nan­ju dobi­ja snagu domaće pravos­nažne sudske pre­sude. Drugim reči­ma, ona ima pravno dejst­vo pre­ma svim lici­ma i može se izvrši­ti u onom bro­ju pos­tu­pa­ka izvršen­ja koji je potre­ban za naplatu čitavog iznosa potraži­van­ja. Nema potrebe za pon­avl­jan­jem pos­tup­ka priz­nan­ja.

Mana ove vrste reša­van­ja je ta da pos­tu­pak može dugo tra­jati u sluča­ju da suprot­na stran­ka izjavi žal­bu. S druge strane, odluči­van­je o priz­nan­ju strane arbi­tražne odluke kao o prethod­nom pitan­ju u izvršnom pos­tup­ku može biti brže od neza­v­isnog pos­tup­ka. Ali kada je o priz­nan­ju arbi­tražne odluke odlučeno kao o prethod­nom pitan­ju u izvršnom pos­tup­ku, priz­nan­je važi samo u tom izvršnom pos­tup­ku. Drugim reči­ma, ako zaj­mo­davac ne uspe da naplati čitav iznos potraži­van­ja u jed­nom pos­tup­ku, prin­uđen je da pono­vo prođe kroz pos­tu­pak priz­nan­ja.

Iznenađuje da, uprkos jakim vezama između Srbije i Austrije, između njih ne postoji uzajamnost u pogledu priznanja odluka privrednih sudova.