Consistent with France's reputation as a pro-arbitration jurisdiction, the French civil courts' review of arbitral awards on grounds of public policy is traditionally limited in terms of both standard and content. However, in recent years, the scope of the courts' review in this regard has been tested in certain Paris Court of Appeal decisions which reviewed the underlying evidence rather than the arbitral tribunal's own determinations in the relevant award.
Parties' ability to choose their arbitrators remains one of the most frequently mentioned advantages of arbitration over litigation. However, this freedom makes sense only if it preserves the overarching duties of arbitrators and judges alike – that is, the duty to be and remain independent and impartial from the parties.
The Paris Court of Appeal recently set aside an award on the grounds of a violation of the principle of equality of arms. The court had to rule on the Iraq war's impact on due process in arbitral proceedings between the Republic of Iraq and two German companies. This decision comes as a reminder that arbitration is a jurisdictional process where parties and arbitrators, while enjoying considerable freedom and flexibility, should be mindful of due process and fair trial guarantees.
The French courts recently supported the rigorous application of the principle of procedural estoppel and reiterated their commitment to the enforcement of agreements that govern arbitral proceedings. The principle prevents parties from relying on alleged irregularities that affect arbitration proceedings before the French courts if the requesting party has not initially raised them before the arbitral tribunal.
A recent Supreme Court decision confirms French law's strict approach in matters involving arbitrators' independence and impartiality. The court found that despite an arbitrator's previous disclosure that his firm had had an inactive relationship with the parent company of one of the parties to the arbitration, his later failure to disclose that this relationship had resumed created reasonable doubt as to his independence and impartiality.
The government recently adopted its new model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). The proposed changes, which are likely to limit investor protection, have now been incorporated, together with additional important amendments. The model BIT reflects two government objectives: a sustainable investment policy and a better balance between the rights and obligations of both states and investors.
A consultation process on the new draft Dutch model bilateral investment treaty (BIT) recently ended. The government is expected to publish the finalised text of the new model BIT later in 2018. The new model will serve as the basis for renegotiation of the 79 BITs that the Netherlands has with states outside the European Union. Among other things, it proposes significant changes to the conduct of arbitral proceedings.
The Hague Court of Appeal recently ruled that its decision on an application for the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award would not be stayed solely on the basis of pending setting aside proceedings at the place of arbitration. Further, the court ruled that the party requesting exequatur did not have to submit Dutch translations of the award. The decision is notable, as the appeal court explicitly acknowledged the New York Convention's pro-enforcement bias, which several courts have failed to do in recent years.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that a Dutch court may enforce an annulled arbitral award if, among other things, the local annulment decision is based on grounds other than those set out in Article V(1)(a)-(d) of the New York Convention and which are not internationally recognised, or the annulment decision is irreconcilable with Dutch private international law. This judgment offers important guidance as to the Dutch courts' discretion to enforce annulled awards.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Russian liquidation order regarding OAO Yukos Oil Company is contrary to Dutch public order and therefore null and void. An interesting question is whether the judgment will have a bearing in the appeal of the annulment proceedings concerning the $50 billion Energy Charter Treaty arbitration case between former Yukos shareholders and Russia, which is pending before The Hague Court of Appeal.