Our team has represented Gazprom in a hotly debated case before the Court of Justice of the European Union. The case concerned litigation regarding the recognition and enforcement of the SCC arbitral award in Lithuania in a case between OAO Gazprom and the Ministry of Energy of Lithuania. The case was focused on the Ministry’s breach of the arbitration agreement concluded in the Shareholders agreement. The arbitral tribunal had decided that the initiation of the Lithuanian court proceedings by the ministry was in breach of the agreement and ordered it to withdraw part of its claims in the national courts. The case was heard by the Supreme Court of Lithuania, which referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling as to whether it should refuse to enforce the SCC award, which it believed may have been inconsistent with EU law.
In its judgment of 13-05-2015 in Case C 536/13, the CJEU found that Brussels I Regulation must be interpreted as not precluding a court of a Member State from recognising and enforcing, or from refusing to recognise and enforce, an arbitral award prohibiting a party from bringing certain claims before a court of that Member State.
The firm’s head of the dispute resolution group, Ramūnas Audzevičius, observed that the CJEU judgment had clearly reinforced the arbitration exception of the Brussels Regulation. Mr Audzevičius also noted that “the CJEU had agreed with our position that arbitral tribunals are not courts of a State and the latter had also enabled the CJEU to reject the mutual trust argument of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, the CJEU stated that as the order has been made by an arbitral tribunal there can be no question of an infringement of that principle by the interference of a court of one Member State in the jurisdiction of the court of another Member State”. Mr Audzevičius further noted that what is of significant importance to anti-suit injunctions in general is that the CJEU had specifically noted that “arbitral tribunal’s prohibition of a party from bringing certain claims before a court of a Member State cannot deny that party judicial protection”, the latter is also a clear rejection of the arguments presented by the Lithuanian Appeal Court and the implied argument by the Supreme Court. Further on that point, the CJEU’s acknowledgment that “the legal effects of an arbitral award such as that at issue in the main proceedings can be distinguished from those of the injunction” is a clear agreement with the argument that the SCC award in question was not an anti-suit injunction at all.