Enforcing foreign judgements in France

  1. Overview


Types of enforceable judgements

Apart from interim injunctions, all remedies are enforceable in France (see conditions below). Please note however the restriction as regards decisions on punitive damages with a disproportionate character (Cour de Cassation, 1e civ., 1 December 2010, no. 09-13303). It is up to the French courts to decide what constitutes a disproportionate punitive damage.


In France, a difference is being made between recognition and enforcement. Judgements are enforced by an exequatur procedure. The judgements must be recognized before they can be enforced. Between member States of the EU, judgements in civil and commercial matters are recognised ipso iure, which means that no special recognition procedure is necessary (article 33(1) Brussels I Regulation). As a result, the applicant can directly apply to the district court in order to have a declaration of enforceability issued (art. 38 Brussels I and article 509-2(1) Code de Procedure Civile).

Due to the Regulation on European Enforcement Order (EEO), which establishes a EEO for uncontested claims in all Member States (except Denmark), the process of declaration of enforceability is not required any more (see article 5 EEO).The same is true for the Regulation on European Payment Order (cf. its article 19), which simplifies cross-border-litigations in EU countries and the European Small Claims Procedure (which simplifies small claims litigations in civil and commercial matters under € 2.000,00; cf. art. 20(1)).


  1. Enforcement of judgements between EU members

EU regulations and treaties

The enforcement of inter-EU judgements is governed by the Brussels I regulation (No. 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 ; except Denmark; reminder: EU Regulations are is binding and directly applicable to all member Sates). Apart from Brussels I, a number of specific Regulations exist:

  • Regulation (1346/2000 of 29 May 2000) on insolvency proceedings
  • Regulation (No. 805/2004 of the EP of 21 April 2004) creating a European Enforcement order
  • Regulation (No. 1896/2006 of 12 December 2006) on a European Payment Order
  • Regulation (No. 861/2007 of 11 July 2007) establishing a European Small Claims Procedure (up to € 2.000)

For relations between EU states and Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, the new Lugano Convention from 30 October 2007 applies.


Requirements for recognition of EU judgements

The possibility of review of an EU judgement is limited by articles 36 and 45 (2): “under no circumstances may a foreign judgement be reviewed as to its substance”.

The only possibility is to be found under article 34 and 35 of the Regulation (manifest conflict with public policy and only if the defendant had no possibility of defence; incompatibility with an earlier judgement in the same cause of action involving the same parties).

The competence of the jurisdiction in the country of origin must not, in general, be reviewed, with the exception of matters relating to insurance and consumer contracts.

Effects of Recognition

As an effect of the recognition of the foreign judgement, it will be considered as “fact, proof and title”.

Public Policy

The Brussels I notion of public policy is to be understood in a more restrictive way compared to the general French public policy idea. The CJEU confirmed this view by stating that the words ‘’public policy” under the Brussels regime has to be interpreted autonomously (CJEU Hoffmann/Krieg, 4 February 1988 and Krombach, 28 March 2000). Both interpretations contain however a procedural notion. For that reason, the French court examines the regularity of the prior procedure.


  1. Non-EU judgements

A variety of international and multilateral treaties are in place between France and third states (a list of all treaties can be found at www.legifrance.gouv.fr). Please note that these do not always cover all types of judgments – the agreement with the US for instance covers family law only. Enforcement is thus left in large parts up to the French judge and the rules of international private law. The French Supreme Court constantly re-defines the legal practice in civil and commercial matters.

Requirements for recognition of non EU judgements

In this respect, the main criterion is the so-called “international regularity”. This implies the compliance of the foreign jurisdiction, the absence of fraud and the compliance with international public policy. This requirement implies an examination of procedural equivalence, but only as far as principles of a fair process are concerned. On top of that, the judgement must be enforceable in its home country and the judgement cannot be in conflict with another judgement on the same subject matter between the same parties (principle of res iudicata).

Public Policy

As mentioned before, the criteria of international procedural regularity has to be complied with. This mainly concerns the rights of the defence (i.e. dispossession without compensation).

Third parties:

In France, the principles of agency or alter ego are not to be applied. A judgement can thus only be enforced against the debtor.