The Belgian Government unveils its plan for a Brussels International Business Court

On 27 October 2017, the Belgian Government announced its intention to set up a specialised English-speaking court with jurisdiction over international commercial disputes, the Brussels International Business Court (BIBC). A draft bill was submitted to Parliament on the 15 May 2018. The BIBC should be effective by 1 January 2020.

Background

In the wake of Brexit, the Belgian Government aims at establishing a specialised business court able to position Brussels as a new hub for international commercial disputes, in line with its international status as de facto capital of the EU and seat of many international institutions and companies.

Jurisdiction

The BIBC will have jurisdiction over disputes:

  • which are international in nature (i.e. where (i) the parties have their establishment in different jurisdictions, (ii) a substantial part of the commercial relationship must be performed in a third country, or (iii) the applicable law to the dispute is a foreign law. In addition, another language than French, Dutch or German must have been used frequently by the parties during their commercial relationship);
  • among enterprises (i.e. every entity pursuing an economic purpose, including public enterprises which provide goods and services on a market basis); and
  • provided that the parties have agreed to the BIBC’s jurisdiction before or after the crystallisation of their dispute.
Procedure

Subject to potential amendments in Parliament, the main procedural hallmarks of the BIBC can be summarised as follows:

  • the procedure will be conducted in English;
  • while the BIBC remains a State court, the procedure will be based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on international arbitration, which means that the parties will be offered greater flexibility and room to organise the conduct of the proceedings;
  • the cases will be heard by chambers of three judges, one professional and two lay judges (appointed by the president of the BIBC on the basis of a panel of Belgian and international experts in international business law), with the assistance of the Registrar of the Brussels Court of Appeal;
  • the BIBC will be granted the power to issue provisional and protective measures (including upon ex parte requests);
  • no appeal will be open against the BIBC’s decision (with the exception of an opposition/verzet and a tierce opposition/derdenverzet before the BIBC, and a pourvoi en cassation/voorziening in cassatie on points of law before the Supreme Court);
  • the BIBC should be self-financing (the court fees are therefore going to be significantly increased).