Enforcement in Belgium

Have you received a foreign judgment that you would like to have enforced in Belgium? It is not uncommon for foreign entrepreneurs to want to enforce judgments in Belgium. You can read about the deadlines under Belgian law and the role of the bailiff in ongoing proceedings in the subsection Enforcement of a foreign Judgment in Belgium.

Our law firm is regularly instructed to enforce foreign judgments in Belgium. Often, foreign clients find the enforcement of claims in Belgium difficult and complicated, which is often the reason for their reluctance to do business abroad. But this concern is unfounded. We can help you with the collection of your debts in Belgium.

If you have not yet obtained a judgment, we can, for example, apply for or enforce a European Payment Order in Belgium. If you have already obtained a judgment abroad, we can ensure that it is enforced in Belgium.

European payment order procedure

If Belgian clients do not comply with their payment obligation even after a warning, you can use a relatively simple procedure to recover your uncontested claim: the European Payment Order procedure. The European Payment Order procedure is a less time-consuming and less costly alternative to the traditional lawsuit procedure.

In the European Payment Order procedure, the issuing of a European Payment Order (EPO) is requested. The European Payment Order procedure has the advantage of direct enforcement in all EU countries by way of a single service. There is no examination by the executing state. This leads to an acceleration of the process. The legal basis for the European Payment Order procedure is Regulation (EC) No. 1896/2006.

1. Scope of application

You can use the European Payment Order procedure in all civil and commercial matters with a cross-border character. This means that the parties live or are domiciled in another EU Member State.

The procedure is only applicable to pecuniary claims that are quantified and due. It is also important to note that the European Payment Order procedure can only be used if the monetary claim is not contested by your Belgian client. If this is probably the case, you will have to summon your client to court.

2. How the procedure works

The European Payment Order procedure is carried out using a set of standard forms and is therefore entirely in writing. Below is an overview of the steps and forms of the procedure.

In the initial phase, it is important that you contact the court that has substantive and territorial jurisdiction. Here you should first establish which country is competent and which court then has jurisdiction for the European Payment Order procedure. The application for a European Payment Order against a Belgian debtor must be filed either in the country of the creditor or in Belgium. A prerequisite for applying for a European Payment Order in the county of the creditor is the effective contractual agreement of this jurisdiction. If no jurisdiction for the country of the creditor has been validly agreed, the application for a European Payment Order must be filed in the debtor’s country of domicile, Belgium. Unlike in some other countries, there is no centrally competent court in Belgium, but jurisdiction lies with the court at the debtor’s domicile.

As soon as the competent court has been determined, the creditor initiates the European Payment Order procedure by submitting an application for a European Payment Order using Form A. This first standard form can be filled in online on the website of the European Commission where it is available in all languages.

The court will then examine whether the conditions set out in the Regulation are met and whether the claim appears to be well founded. If the court grants your application, the EPO will be issued and must then be served on the debtor. The debtor now has two options: He can accept the order and pay it or file an objection against the payment order within 30 days after service of the EPO.

The debtor’s objection to the European Payment Order in principle initiates court proceedings. However, the creditor retains the option to note in his application for a European Payment Order that in case of objection by the debtor court proceedings are not to be initiated automatically. This information remains hidden for the debtor.

If the objection period has expired without any objection by the debtor and the debtor has still not paid, the court declares the EPO enforceable. The EPO can now be enforced in Belgium, according to Belgian law. The defendant can now no longer contest the EPO, unless there is a case of force majeure.

We can assist you in applying for an EPO in Belgium or in enforcing a foreign EPO in relation to a Belgian debtor. For this purpose, we cooperate with bailiffs in the different regions of Belgium.

Enforcement of a foreign judgment in Belgium

The enforcement of foreign judgments in Belgium is very simple. For these judgments, Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 (Brussels Ibis Regulation) considerably facilitates enforcement. This Regulation abolished the complicated exequatur procedure for all proceedings initiated as of 10 January 2015 and replaced it with a faster, more efficient and less expensive system for the recognition and enforcement of judgments.

The Regulation governs the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters from other Member States. It applies to so-called adversarial judgments (judgments where the defendant has defended himself) and default judgments against a consumer (for default judgments between businesses, see below). The judgment must be enforceable.

The new procedure provides that you can enforce your foreign judgment in Belgium provided you have a copy of the enforceable foreign court decision and a ‘certificate concerning a judgment in civil and commercial matters’. In this certificate, the court of origin confirms that the proceedings have been duly initiated and that the decision is final and enforceable. You must apply for the certificate at the court that handed down your judgment. You can do this immediately in the original proceedings, but you can also do it later by filing an application. A translation of the certificate and the judgment are not actually necessary, but are nevertheless advisable to avoid delays in the later course of enforcement.

A copy of the foreign judgment together with the certificate must then be served on the debtor by a Belgian bailiff. Enforcement in Belgium is governed by Belgian law. Before enforcement measures can be initiated, the debtor is served with a payment order. The payment order is a demand for payment and thus the last warning to the debtor, who can still prevent enforcement by paying. After a reasonable waiting period (which in practice is about 15 days) you can initiate the final enforcement.

After the waiting period has expired, the debtor’s assets can be seized. An attachment is carried out with an order of the bailiff. An official record of the attachment is issued. The attachment can be made in movable and immovable assets or in claims. The attached movable assets are sold at the earliest one month after the notification of the official attachment record to the debtor. This postponement serves to give the debtor a last chance to prevent the sale. The proceeds are paid out to the creditors, including those who have not executed an attachment. In the case of attachment to immovable property, the attachment order is first entered in the register of the land registry. This results in the unavailability of the property. Upon application, the attachment court appoints a notary to handle the sale of the assets and to draw up a distribution plan. The proceeds of the sale are then distributed to the individual creditors according to the agreed ranking of the creditors. Claims of the debtor against a third party (e.g. earned income or money in a bank account) may also be attached, subject to the applicable exemption limits.

The intended enforcement in Belgium of a foreign  judgment by default between companies is also straightforward on the basis of Regulation (EC) No. 805/2004. The prerequisite for enforcement is the issuance of the judgment by default as a European enforceable title for uncontested claims. For this purpose, an application is made to the court that issued the default judgment. The issuance of the judgment as a European enforceable title is then sufficient to enforce the claim in Belgium.

In the enforcement of a foreign judgment against a Belgian debtor, we can assist you in cooperation with our local bailiffs.

Enforcement | Euregio Law & Tax