Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Denmark

In a globalized world such as the one we live in, it is important for Danish companies as well as for private individuals to find out whether a judgment handed down abroad will be enforced directly in this country. Therefore, the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Denmark is a central issue.

One can think of different scenarios:

1. A foreign creditor brings proceedings against a Danish company and obtains a judgment where a foreign court sentences a Danish natural person or a Danish company to e.g. to pay a sum of money.

2. A Danish company/a Danish private person has a claim against a foreign debtor, initiates the case in Denmark, and a Danish court issues a judgment in Denmark, which must be enforced in the country where the foreign debtor resides.

3. A Dane is sentenced by a foreign judicial authority) to pay alimony abroad, or a Danish decision on alimony or child support issued by the Family Court must be enforced abroad.

Whether a foreign judgment can be enforced in Denmark depends on a specific assessment. There are different rules depending on the country where the judgment was handed down.

Whether a Danish judgment can be enforced abroad depends on a specific decision made by the foreign competent authorities in the country where the judgment is to be enforced.

In what follows, I will briefly summarize the rules that apply in the area. I emphasize that this is a summary description and not a detailed review of the applicable rules.

As a starting point, the following applies:

Agreement between the parties

The parties can agree on venue in Denmark. This means that a lawsuit between the parties must be settled in Denmark. In that case, a Danish judgment is obtained, which can be enforced in Denmark.

The parties to a court case can also agree in advance that a foreign judgment can be enforced in Denmark.

It is only possible to enter into such an agreement if the judgment is handed down in a country that has acceded to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention has been acceded to by all EU and EEA countries as well as Singapore and Mexico.

Nordic countries

Judgments handed down in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland) can generally be enforced in Denmark. This is about mutual recognition, so that Danish judgments can also be enforced in Norway, Sweden and Finland. The background for mutual recognition is a common Nordic treaty, as well as the applicable rules for the EU and EFTA countries. As a starting point, Danish judgments will thus be able to be enforced in Sweden, Norway and Finland in the same way.

EU, EFTA and EEA countries

Judgments handed down in countries that are members of the EU and EFTA as well as the EEA zone will also, as a rule, be able to be enforced directly in Denmark. This is due to the European Parliament and Council Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 of 12.12.12., as well as the parallel agreements which ensure that this regulation can be used in Denmark despite our EU reservations. The regulation ensures mutual recognition of the judgments of the other Member States. Danish judgments will thus also, as a clear starting point, be enforceable, e.g. in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, just as the judgments of these countries will be enforceable in Denmark.

Countries outside the EU, EFTA, EEA and the Nordic countries

Judgments from all countries other than those mentioned above cannot, as a rule, be enforced directly in Denmark.

This means that if a foreign natural person or a foreign company has a claim against a person or a company resident in Denmark, the person concerned must bring the case in Denmark.

As a rule, judgments handed down by Danish courts cannot be enforced in countries outside the EU, EFTA, EEA and the Nordic countries. This means that if a Dane/a Danish company has a claim against a foreign person/a foreign company, the person in question must bring the case at the defendant’s place of jurisdiction, i.e. in the country where the defendant resides.

Arbitration awards from other countries

In international cases in particular, arbitration is widespread, mainly because through arbitration the parties can choose a neutral forum, where they have an influence on the composition of the arbitration court, case processing and application of law. In addition, arbitration awards, as a result of international cooperation, to a much greater extent than judgments are guaranteed the possibility of enforcement in other countries. The arbitration is regulated by the Danish Arbitration Act and by the New York Convention, which has been acceded to by approx. 140 countries. Decisions from the arbitration court can, as a rule, be enforced by the enforcement court in Denmark, regardless of the country in which the arbitration court was established. Arbitration decisions rendered in Denmark can also, as a matter of principle, be enforced in all other countries.

However, there are the following disadvantages of arbitration proceedings:

1. The parties must agree on a number of points, e.g. that the case must be decided in this way, the choice of arbitrator and which legal rules must decide the case.

2. Only disputes in legal relationships, over which the parties have free disposal, can be settled by force-marriage.

3. Arbitration proceedings can be very expensive and lengthy. Therefore, only claims of a certain size are settled by arbitration.

You can find more information on the arbitration institute’s website .

Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments

A Danish enforcement court has the competence to recognize, execute and possibly enforce foreign judgments. The bailiff decides whether recognition, enforcement and any compulsory enforcement of foreign judgments must take place on the basis of a specific assessment in each individual case.

Refusal to recognize or enforce foreign judgments

If the bailiffs’ court refuses to recognize and enforce foreign judgments in Denmark, the person or company that wants to make a claim will have to bring the case anew in the Danish courts with a view to obtaining a Danish judgment that can be enforced in Denmark, in Danish courts in order to obtain, if possible, a Danish judgment that can be enforced in Denmark.

The bailiff’s court refuses recognition and thereby enforcement in the following cases:

1. The foreign judgment contravenes basic Danish legal principles.

2. The summons in the foreign case has not been served, or the service has not been done correctly.

3. The judgment is in conflict with a Danish decision made between the same parties.

Enforcing a foreign decision can be complicated and time-consuming, and there can be many points of importance for the bailiff’s assessment.

It is therefore recommended to seek legal advice as early in the case as possible.

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