Modest changes to the Belgian Arbitration Act

With effect as of January 1st, 2017, the Act of 25 December 2016 (known as the “Pot-Pourri IV Act”) amended among other things certain provisions of Part Six (i.e. articles 1676 to 1723) of the Belgian Judicial Code. This Part Six contains the provisions on arbitration (the so-called “Belgian Arbitration Act” or “BAA”).

The amendments are mostly a matter of fine-tuning, clarification and simplification. Still, some of them are noteworthy:

Firstly, art. 1676, §7 BAA, on the territorial application of the BAA and the jurisdiction of the Belgian courts in arbitration matters, is redrafted. It is now clearly confirmed that the BAA is applicable and Belgian courts have jurisdiction when (i) the seat of the arbitration is located in Belgium or (ii) the parties have agreed on this. Note however that even when the seat is located in Belgium, parties are still allowed to derogate from those BAA provisions which are non-mandatory.

Secondly, new paragraphs are inserted in art. 1696 BAA, which describe in more detail the procedure to obtain the recognition and enforcement of interim measures ordered by an arbitral tribunal.

Thirdly, art. 1702 BAA provides that the starting point of an arbitration is no longer the reception by respondent of the request for arbitration, but is now the communication by the claimant of the request for arbitration.

Fourthly, in seeking to simplify formalities and increase the efficiency of arbitration, the Belgian legislator also amended articles 1713 and 1714 BAA. Once the arbitral tribunal has rendered its award, it is no longer required to file the award with the clerk of the court of first instance. This formality was deemed cumbersome without having any significant added value.