Germany steps up the competition for international dispute resolution

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Following France, the Netherlands and Belgium, the German federal state of NRW has joined the race to become the EU’s new centre for international dispute resolution post-Brexit. NRW’s Secretary of Justice, Peter Biesenbach, has announced that he wants to establish three English-speaking commercial courts on that account.

Germany has good credentials to become a centre of international litigation should the Europe-wide enforcement of UK judgments become more complicated when the UK leaves the EU. It ranks highly in parties’ choice as to where to resolve their international disputes, for example NRW ranks second only to Washington for patent litigation, according to Biesenbach. In addition, he says, German court fees are capped and moderate by comparison with other jurisdictions.

The three commercial courts are planned to be located at the regional appeal courts in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Hamm and to deal with complex and high value lawsuits. It is also intended to establish several competence centres at NRW’s district courts, specialising in, among other things, mergers and acquisitions. On top of that, Biesenbach wants to establish an innovative new alternative dispute settlement procedure that doesn’t require a preceding suit and simplifies the conflict resolution process to boost the German courts’ attractiveness.

Various changes to federal law will be required to be made, especially if the possibility of full English-language litigation is to come to fruition. In 2010 and 2014, bills regarding court language initiated by the house of federal states, the German Bundesrat, were not passed by the parliament, the German Bundestag. At the beginning of March 2018, however, the Bundesrat decided to initiate another bill to allow the possibility of English-language litigation. Since 2010, there have been various pilot projects testing English-language oral proceedings but still with German-language legal papers and the evidence is that these have been successful. If the bill is passed, Germany will have an exciting opportunity to become a key centre for the resolution of international disputes.

Stefan Segger
Philipp Sandkühler