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Soon an English international business court in Brussels?

A few days ago, the Belgian media have revealed that Brussels should soon have an Anglophone court called “Brussels International Business Court” (hereafter: “BIBC”).

The BIBC is the result of a joint initiative of the Belgian Prime Minister’s office (Charles Michel) and the Belgian Justice Minister’s office (Koen Geens), which have recently presented an inter office preliminary draft bill. The aim of this initiative is to attract potential disputes originating from the Brexit, as well as large commercial disputes between companies with international dimension.

If all goes according to plan, the BIBC should be operational in the upcoming months. The establishment of the BIBC as an Anglophone court, would be the first of its kind to be established in a non-Anglophone country.

The main particularities of this new court should be as follows:

  • The cases will be pleaded and the decisions written in English
  • The BIBC will be a first and sole instance court. This means that it will not be possible to appeal the decisions rendered by the BIBC. The procedure will therefore have the advantage of being swift. 
  • The BIBC will be composed of a President, a Vice-President and several judges. The President and the Vice-President will be appointed from among the judges of the Brussels Appeal Court, specialized in market regulation cases by the Federal Public Service Justice for a three years term of office. The judges will be appointed by the President and the Vice-President for a five years term of office. The judges will be either lawyers, experts in international commercial law or university lecturers. 
  • Throughout the BIBC’s hearings, the seat will be composed of three individuals: a professional judge and two judges being chosen from among pre-selected lawyers, experts in international commercial law or university lecturers. 
  • The parties in a case in front of the BIBC will be free to choose the applicable law. The judges will be entitled to call on amicus curiae, i.e. an impartial adviser to a court of law in a particular case. These amicus curiae will provide legal advice and information regarding the case in order to assist and enlighten the judges. If the parties do not decide on the applicable law, the judges will be free to decide for them.

The idea of the Belgian government is probably to create a hybrid court (i.e. half way between a regular state court and an arbitration court), which will offer the advantages of arbitration (i.e. English, swiftness, flexibility and experienced judge), but at a lower cost for the parties.

However, despite the fact that the Belgian government’s initiative to create the BIBC is laudable, many questions remain unanswered. For example, the question raises how the Belgian government will finance this new court knowing that other Belgian courts are in desperate need of financial resources. Moreover, the BIBC will depend on the clerk’s office of the Appeal Court of Brussels, which is one of the Belgian most overloaded clerk’s offices. The government’s aim to create an accelerated procedure court seems therefore already compromised.

KOAN Law Firm will certainly keep you informed regarding the BIBC.

KOAN's Corporate Team