Switzerland

1. Is there an exequatur procedure?

Yes. If a party does not voluntarily comply with a foreign award, there is a procedure to recognise the foreign decision respectively to declare it enforceable.

Unless superseded by international treaties, the recognition and declaration of enforceability of a foreign decision is governed by the Swiss Code on Private International Law (CPIL). Foreign decisions issued in member states of the Lugano Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters of 30 October 2007 (Lugano Convention) will be recognised and declared enforceable in Switzerland under the rules of this convention.

In general, there is no need to initiate a separate procedure, but usually the recognition of the declaration of enforceability is sought “incidentally” i.e. as a preliminary question in the enforcement procedure (cf. Article 29 (3) CPIL and Article 33 Lugano Convention). For example, where a debtor objects against a payment request which is based on a foreign decision, in the subsequent court procedure to remove the objection and proceed with the enforcement procedure, the claimant will seek – as a preliminary question – the declaration of enforceability of the foreign decision.

If the recognition or declaration of enforceability is sought in a separate procedure, it must be filed with the enforcement court in the canton where the foreign decision is relied upon (Article 29 CPIL, Articles 335 (3) and 338 (1) of the Swiss Civil Procedure Code). Similarly, the Lugano Convention provides that the enforcement court at the place of enforcement, or at the place of domicile of the party against whom enforcement is sought, shall have jurisdiction (Article 39 and Annex II to the Lugano Convention).

2. What are the applicable statutes?

2.1 Recognition in civil matters

Foreign decisions in civil matters issued in member states of the Lugano Convention will be recognised in Switzerland according to Articles 33-37 and 53-56 of the Lugano Convention.

For decisions in civil matters rendered by courts of other states, Articles 25-27 CPIL govern their recognition in Switzerland:

Artikel 25 – Anerkennung / 1. GrundsatzArticle 25 – Recognition / 1. General rule
Eine ausländische Entscheidung wird in der Schweiz anerkannt:a. wenn die Zuständigkeit der Gerichte oder Behörden des Staates, in dem die Entscheidung ergangen ist, begründet war;b. wenn gegen die Entscheidung kein ordentliches Rechtsmittel mehr geltend gemacht werden kann oder wenn sie endgültig ist, undc. wenn kein Verweigerungsgrund im Sinne von Artikel 27 vorliegt.A foreign decision shall be recognised in Switzerland:a. if the judicial or administrative authorities of the state in which the decision was rendered had jurisdiction;b. if the decision is no longer subject to any ordinary appeal or if it is a final decision; andc. if there is no ground for refusal under article 27.
Artikel 26 – 2. Zuständigkeit ausländischer BehördenArticle 26 – 2. Jurisdiction of foreign authorities
Die Zuständigkeit ausländischer Behörden ist begründet:a. wenn eine Bestimmung dieses Gesetzes sie vorsieht oder, falls eine solche fehlt, wenn der Beklagte seinen Wohnsitz im Urteilsstaat hatte;b. wenn in vermögensrechtlichen Streitigkeiten die Parteien sich durch eine nach diesem Gesetz gültige Vereinbarung der Zuständigkeit der Behörde unterworfen haben, welche die Entscheidung getroffen hat;c. wenn sich der Beklagte in einer vermögensrechtlichen Streitigkeit vorbehaltlos auf den Rechtsstreit eingelassen hat;  d. wenn im Falle einer Widerklage die Behörde, die die Entscheidung getroffen hat, für die Hauptklage zuständig war und zwischen Haupt- und Widerklage ein sachlicher Zusammenhang besteht.Foreign authorities have jurisdiction:a. if a provision of this Code provides so or, in the absence of such a provision, if the defendant was domiciled in the state in which the decision was rendered;b. if the parties, by an agreement valid under this Code, submitted a financial dispute to the jurisdiction of the authority that rendered the decision;c. if, in a financial dispute, the defendant proceeded to the merits, without objecting to the court's jurisdiction; ord. if, in the case of a counterclaim, the authority that rendered the decision had jurisdiction for the main claim and there was a nexus between the main claim and the counterclaim.
Artikel 27 – 3. VerweigerungsgründeArticle 27 – 3. Grounds for refusal
1 Eine im Ausland ergangene Entscheidung wird in der Schweiz nicht anerkannt, wenn die Anerkennung mit dem schweizerischen ordre public offensichtlich unvereinbar wäre.2 Eine im Ausland ergangene Entscheidung wird ebenfalls nicht anerkannt, wenn eine Partei nachweist:a. dass sie weder nach dem Recht an ihrem Wohnsitz noch nach dem am gewöhnlichen Aufenthalt gehörig geladen wurde, es sei denn, sie habe sich vorbehaltlos auf das Verfahren eingelassen;b. dass die Entscheidung unter Verletzung wesentlicher Grundsätze des schweizerischen Verfahrensrechts zustande gekommen ist, insbesondere dass ihr das rechtliche Gehör verweigert worden ist;c. dass ein Rechtsstreit zwischen denselben Parteien und über denselben Gegenstand  zuerst in der Schweiz eingeleitet oder in der Schweiz entschieden worden ist oder dass er in einem Drittstaat früher entschieden worden ist und dieser Entscheid in der Schweiz anerkannt werden kann.3 Im Übrigen darf die Entscheidung in der Sache selbst nicht nachgeprüft werden.1 Recognition of a foreign decision shall be denied in Switzerland if the recognition of such decision would be manifestly incompatible with Swiss public order.2 Recognition of a foreign decision shall be equally denied if a party establishes:a. that it was not duly summoned, neither under the law of its domicile nor under the law of its habitual residence – unless such party proceeded to the merits without contesting jurisdiction;b. that the decision was rendered in violation of fundamental principles of Swiss procedural law, in particular in violation of the right to be heard;c. that a lawsuit between the same parties and concerning the same causes of action had been previously brought or decided in Switzerland, or that such lawsuit had been previously decided in a third country and that such decision is recognisable in Switzerland.3 Except as provided above, the foreign decision shall not be reviewed on the merits.

2.2 Enforcement in civil matters

Articles 38 and following of the Lugano Convention govern the enforcement of foreign judgments rendered in civil matters in member states of the Lugano Convention.

For decisions in civil matters rendered by courts of other states, Articles 28-32 CPIL govern the enforcement in Switzerland:

Artikel 28 – VollstreckungArticle 28 – Enforcement
Eine nach den Artikeln 25-27 anerkannte Entscheidung wird auf Begehren der interessierten Partei für vollstreckbar erklärt.A decision recognised under articles 25 to 27 shall be declared enforceable upon application by the interested party.
Artikel 29 – VerfahrenArticle 29 – Procedure
1 Das Begehren auf Anerkennung oder Vollstreckung ist an die zuständige Behörde des Kantons zu richten, in dem die ausländische Entscheidung geltend gemacht wird. Dem Begehren sind beizulegen:a. eine vollständige und beglaubigte Ausfertigung der Entscheidung;b. eine Bestätigung, dass gegen die Entscheidung kein ordentliches Rechtsmittel mehr geltend gemacht werden kann oder dass sie endgültig ist, undc. im Falle eines Abwesenheitsurteils eine Urkunde, aus der hervorgeht, dass die unterlegene Partei gehörig und so rechtzeitig geladen worden ist, dass sie die Möglichkeit gehabt hatte, sich zu verteidigen.2 Im Anerkennungs- und Vollstreckungsverfahren ist die Partei, die sich dem Begehren widersetzt, anzuhören; sie kann ihre Beweismittel geltend machen.3 Wird eine Entscheidung vorfrageweise geltend gemacht, so kann die angerufene Behör-de selber über die Anerkennung entscheiden.1 The application for recognition or enforcement must be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction in the canton in which the foreign decision is relied upon. The application must be accompanied by:a. a complete and authenticated copy of the decision;b. a confirmation that an ordinary appeal can no longer be lodged against the decision or that the decision is final; andc. in the case of a default judgment, an official document establishing that the defaulting party was duly summoned and that it had the opportunity to submit a defence.2 The party opposing recognition and enforcement shall have the right to be heard; it may submit evidence.3 If a foreign decision is invoked in a proceeding as a preliminary question, the authority to which the application is submitted may itself decide on the recognition.
Artikel 30 – Gerichtlicher VergleichArticle 30 – Court settlement
Die Artikel 25-29 gelten auch für den gerichtlichen Vergleich, sofern er in dem Staat, in dem er abgeschlossen worden ist, einer gerichtlichen Entscheidung gleichgestellt wird.Articles 25 to 29 shall apply to a court settlement too, if such settlement has the same status as a court decision in the state in which it was entered.
Artikel 31 – Freiwillige GerichtsbarkeitArticle 31 – Non-contentious jurisdiction
Die Artikel 25-29 gelten sinngemäss für die Anerkennung und Vollstreckung einer Entscheidung oder einer Urkunde der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit.Articles 25 to 29 shall apply by analogy to the recognition and enforcement of a decision or a legal instrument resulting from non-contentious court proceedings.
Artikel 32 – Eintragung in die ZivilstandsregisterArticle 32 – Entry in the register of births, deaths and marriages
1 Eine ausländische Entscheidung oder Urkunde über den Zivilstand wird aufgrund einer Verfügung der kantonalen Aufsichtsbe¬hörde in die Zivilstandsregister eingetragen.2 Die Eintragung wird bewilligt, wenn die Voraussetzungen der Artikel 25-27 erfüllt sind.3 Die betroffenen Personen sind vor der Eintragung anzuhören, wenn nicht feststeht, dass im ausländischen Urteilsstaat die verfahrensmässigen Rechte der Parteien hinreichend gewahrt worden sind.1 A foreign decision or a foreign act regarding civil status shall be entered in the register of births, deaths and marriages upon an order of the cantonal supervisory authority.2 The entry shall be granted when the requirements of articles 25 to 27 are satisfied.3 Prior to the entry, the persons affected shall be granted the right to be heard unless it is established that the procedural rights of the parties were adequately safeguarded by the foreign state which rendered the decision.

2.3 Special matters

Special rules apply for certain matters. In particular, Articles 166-175 CPIL govern the recognition of foreign bankruptcy and composition proceedings.

2.4 Arbitral awards

Pursuant to Article 194 CPIL, the New York Convention of June 10, 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards governs the recognition and enforcement of all foreign awards in Switzerland. By including an express reference to the New York Convention in Article 194 CPIL, the Swiss legislature broadened the applicability of the New York Convention unilaterally, in that it now applies regardless of whether the country of origin of the award is a signatory to the New York Convention. Any and all foreign awards will therefore be recognised and enforced in Switzerland pursuant to the provisions of the New York Convention.

If a foreign state court exercises jurisdiction over a dispute despite the existence of a valid arbitration agreement in accordance with Article II of the New York Convention, based on Article 25 (a) CPIL, the foreign state court’s decision will not be recognised in Switzerland.

3. What are the important judicial precedents?

Switzerland does not use a common law model, so “judicial precedents” do not apply.

Being a civil law country, the recognition and enforcement of foreign awards is governed by statutory law and international conventions. That said, court rulings are relevant when it comes to the application and interpretation thereof. As these court rulings regard specific cases and situations, it has to be verified on a case-by-case basis whether and to what extent case law exists and needs to be taken into account.

4. Does the exequatur procedure mean that the case must be retried on the merits?

No. Articles 25 and 28 CPIL provide that a foreign decision shall be recognised and enforced in Switzerland if:

  • the judicial or administrative authorities of the foreign state had jurisdiction; and
  • the decision is final or enforceable in the foreign state; and
  • there is no ground for denial under Article 27 CPIL.

Article 27 CPIL does not allow a full-fledged review of the foreign decision, yet a ground for denial only exists if:

  • the recognition or enforcement of such decision would be manifestly incompatible with Swiss public order; or
  • the objecting party was not properly summoned; or
  • fundamental principles of procedural law (in particular the right to be heard) were violated; or
  • the same matter has already been tried before (res judicata) or is already pending (lis pendens).

As expressly stated in Article 27 (3) CPIL: “Except as provided above, the foreign decision shall not be reviewed on the merits.”

5. How long does the exequatur procedure take?

Separate proceedings for recognition and declaration of enforceability of foreign awards are rare in Switzerland. The duration will therefore depend on the enforcement procedure in which, as preliminary question, the recognition or declaration of enforceability is sought. In case of separate proceedings, the typical duration is around six months.

6. Is the opponent given the opportunity to challenge the exequatur?

Yes. In cases where there are  separate proceedings for recognition and declaration of enforceability of foreign awards, the enforcement court will decide in summary proceedings and grant the respondent the right to be heard before rendering its decision (Article 29 (2) CPIL and arts 335 (3) and 341 (2) of the Swiss Civil Procedure Code).

Equally, where recognition or declaration of enforceability is sought as a preliminary question, the opponent will be granted the right to be heard before the decision is rendered.

The situation is different with respect to foreign decisions issued in member states of the Lugano Convention. Under the convention, the respondent is not heard by the first instance court which decides whether the foreign decision shall be recognised and declared enforceable in Switzerland (arts 33 (2) and 41 of the Lugano Convention). However, each party may file an appeal against the decision of the Swiss first instance court on the application for recognition or declaration of enforceability (arts 33 (2) and 43 of the Lugano Convention).

Authors

Picture of Philipp Dickenmann
Philipp J. Dickenmann, LL.M.
Jodok Wicki
Dr Jodok Wicki