General framework

Domestic law

Which domestic laws and regulations govern the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?

The recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments is governed by Title V of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta), entitled ‘Of the Enforcement of Judgments of Tribunals of Countries Outside Malta’. Article 826 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure stipulates that “any judgment delivered by a competent court outside of Malta and constituting a res judicata may be enforced by the competent court in Malta”.

Article 825A of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure stipulates that Title V’s provisions apply only insofar as they agree with the relevant EU regulations and that the EU regulations prevail. 

International conventions

Which international conventions and bilateral treaties relating to the recognition and enforcement of judgments apply in your jurisdiction?

Malta is an EU member state and therefore EU regulations apply directly without the need for further implementation. The most notable pieces of legalisation regarding the enforcement and recognition of foreign judgments are:

  • the recast EU Brussels Regulation (1215/2012), which establishes the enforcement and recognition procedure for judgments pronounced in EU member states;
  • the EU Brussels Regulation (44/2001), which applies to judgments given in legal proceedings started before 10 January 2015; and
  • the European Enforcement Order for Uncontested Claims Regulation (805/2004), which enables the court of origin to certify a judgment as a European enforcement order for uncontested claims. The judgment is then enforceable across the European Union.

Malta is also a party to the Lugano Convention 2007 (on the jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters), which has been ratified by EU member states and regulates the enforcement of civil and commercials matters between EU member states, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.    

Competent courts

Which courts are competent to hear cases on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

Cases concerning the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are generally heard before the First Hall of the Civil Court.

Distinction between recognition and enforcement

Is there a legal distinction between the recognition and enforcement of a judgment?

In order for a judgment to be enforced it must first be recognised. ‘Recognition’ means giving a foreign judgment the same effect in Malta as it has in the country where it was decided. ‘Enforcement’ is generally understood to mean the process of executing the judgment, so once a judgment has been recognised, it can be enforced in Malta in the same way as a domestic judgment.

Ease of enforcement

In general, how easy is it to secure recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?

For judgments that fall under the recast EU Brussels Regulation, the recognition and enforcement procedure is quite straightforward, as a judgment enforceable in the EU member state which pronounced it will be enforceable in Malta without any declaration of enforceability (Articles 36 and 39).

Legal proceedings started before 1 January 2015 fall within the scope of the EU Brussels Regulation. As a result, the judgment creditor would have to file an application before the Maltese court including all of the formalities required under Article 53 of the regulation. Once the formalities have been met, the judgment will be declared enforceable. This procedure is also found in the Lugano Convention.

With respect to judgments that fall outside the scope of the recast EU Brussels Regulation, the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, a res judicata judgment may be enforced by the competent court in Malta in the same manner as judgments delivered in Malta upon the filing of application containing a demand that the enforcement of such judgment be ordered.

Reform

Are any reforms to the framework on recognition and enforcement of judgments envisioned or underway?

There are no known reforms to the framework on the recognition and enforcement of judgments in Malta at present.

Conditions for recognition and enforcement

Enforceable judgments

Which types of judgment (eg, monetary judgments, mandatory or prohibitory orders) are enforceable in your jurisdiction and which (if any) are explicitly excluded from recognition and enforcement (eg, default judgments, judgments granting punitive damages)?

The recast EU Brussels Regulation (1215/2012), the EU Brussels Regulation (44/2001) and the Lugano Convention 2007 define a 'judgment' as any judgment by a court or tribunal of an EU member state, whatever the judgment may be called (eg, decree, order, decision or writ of execution), as well as a decision on the determination of costs or expenses by an officer of the court. However, the term does not apply to the status or legal capacity of natural persons, matrimonial matters, wills and succession, social security matters, arbitration or bankruptcy or winding-up proceedings.

With respect to non-EU judgments, the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure provides that any judgment delivered by a competent court outside Malta, and constituting a res judicata, may be enforced by the competent court in Malta as long as the judgment:

  • is not contrary to Maltese public policy or internal public order;
  • has not been given in default if the parties are not contumacious according to foreign law; and
  • may not be set aside on any of the grounds mentioned in Article 811 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure. 

How are foreign judgments subject to appeal treated?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionWith respect to judgments which fall under the scope of the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, Maltese courts may stay proceedings if an ordinary appeal against the judgment has been sought (Article 37 of the regulation). 

Recast EU Brussels RegulationRegarding judgments which fall under the scope of the recast EU Brussels Regulation, Maltese courts may suspend the proceedings in whole or in part if the judgment is challenged in the EU member state of origin (Article 38(a)). Any interested party may also file an application requesting that the judgment’s enforcement is refused and may appeal once the decision is given. The court that hears the appeal may stay the proceedings if an ordinary appeal has been lodged against the judgment in the EU member state of origin (Article 51).

Non-EU judgmentsIn accordance with Article 826 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, any judgment delivered by a competent court outside Malta must be a res judicata in order for enforcement to occur.

Formal requirements

What are the formal and documentary requirements for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionFor judgments which fall under the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, the following documentation is required:

  • an application before the First Hall of the Civil Court requesting the judgment’s recognition and enforceability;
  • an authenticated copy of the judgment and an authenticated translation into English or Maltese; and
  • a certificate in the standard form found in Annex V of the regulation issued by the court of the EU member state in which the judgment was given (Article 54 of the regulation).

Recast EU Brussels RegulationA judgment made in one EU member state will be recognised in other EU member states without any special procedure being required. A party that wishes to enforce a judgment must provide the court with the following documentation:

  • a certified copy of the judgment;
  • a certificate issued by the state of origin certifying the judgment’s enforceability and outlining its details; and
  • certified translations into English or Maltese.

Non-EU judgmentsFor judgments pronounced by jurisdictions not party to the recast EU Brussels Regulation, the EU Brussels Regulation or the Lugano Convention, the following documentation is required:

  • an application filed before the court requesting the judgment’s recognition and enforceability;
  • a certified copy of the foreign judgment and a certified translation into English or Maltese;
  • certification that the judgment is a res judicata.

Substantive requirements

What substantive requirements (if any) apply to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments? Are enforcing courts in your jurisdiction permitted to review the foreign judgment on the merits?

Maltese courts are not permitted to review foreign judgments on their merits or substance. The recast EU Brussels Regulation, the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention prohibit courts in the EU member state addressed from reviewing judgments on their substance. 

Limitation period

What is the limitation period for enforcement of a foreign judgment?

The recast EU Brussels Regulation, the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention provide no limitation period for the enforcement of a foreign judgment, but the judgment must remain enforceable in the country of origin.

As a general rule, judgments given by the First Hall of the Civil Court may be enforced within 15 years. Once this period lapses, an application must be filed requesting the court to enforce the judgment (Article 258 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure).

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds can recognition and enforcement be refused?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionJudgments that fall under the scope of the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention will be declared enforceable immediately on completion of the formalities stipulated in Article 53 of the regulation. According to Articles 34 and 35 of the regulation, the aggrieved parties may then file an appeal before the Court of Appeal on the following grounds:

  • the judgment is contrary to Maltese public policy;  
  • the judgment is given in default of appearance as the defendant was not served with the document instituting the proceedings;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with a judgment given in a dispute between the same parties in Malta;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in another EU member state or a third state involving the same cause of action between the same parties; or
  • the judgment conflicts with jurisdictional matters relating to insurance, consumer contracts or exclusive jurisdiction as defined in the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention.

Recast EU Brussels RegulationFor judgments that fall within the scope of the recast EU Brussels Regulation, any interested party may file an application requesting the refusal of recognition or enforcement based on any of the grounds mentioned above (Article 45). In addition to the abovementioned grounds, the recast EU Brussels Regulation also provides a ground when the judgment conflicts with jurisdictional matters relating to employment contracts when an employee is the defendant.

Non-EU judgmentsNon-EU judgments may be refused recognition and enforcement if they fall within any of the following scenarios stipulated in Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure:

  • the judgment was given in default of appearance where the parties were not contumacious according to foreign law;
  • the judgment is contrary to public policy or Malta’s internal public law;
  • the foreign judgment can be set aside based on any of the following grounds mentioned in Article 811 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure:
    • the judgment was obtained by fraud by one party to the prejudice of another;
    • the application was not served on the party cast, provided that, notwithstanding such an omission, said party did not appear at the trial;
    • any of the parties to the suit was under a legal disability to sue or be sued, provided that no plea had been raised and determined;
    • the judgment was delivered by a court having no jurisdiction;
    • the judgment contained an incorrect application of the law;
    • judgment was given on any matter not included in the demand;
    • judgment was given in excess of the demand;
    • the judgment conflicts with a previous judgment given in a suit on the same subject matter and between the same parties and constitutes a res judicata, provided no plea of res judicata has been raised and determined;
    • the judgment contains contradictory dispositions;
    • the judgment was based on evidence which, in a subsequent judgment, was declared to be false or which was so declared in a previous judgment, but the party cast was not aware of such fact;
    • after the judgment, some conclusive document was obtained, of which the party producing it had no knowledge, or which, with the means provided by law, it could not have produced, before the judgment; or
    • the judgment was the effect of an error resulting from the proceedings or documents of the cause.

Service of process

To what extent does the enforcing court review the service of process in the original foreign proceedings?

In accordance with the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, Maltese first-instance courts have no right to review. Only where a defendant files an appeal will the Court of Appeal look into the service of process in foreign proceedings (should this be the ground of appeal) and it must be clear from the documentation that the defendant was not served with the document which instituted the foreign proceedings. 

Under the recast EU Brussels Regulation, any interested party may file an application requesting the refusal of enforcement where the judgment was given in default of appearance if the defendant was not served with the document which instituted the proceedings in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable them to arrange for their defence, unless the defendant failed to commence proceedings to challenge the judgment when it was possible for them to do so (Article 45(1)(b)).

Regarding non-EU judgments, the Maltese courts have the right to review the service of process under Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure. 

Public policy

What public policy issues are considered in the court’s decision to grant recognition and enforcement? Is there any notable case law in this regard?

The public policy issues considered by the Maltese courts include:

  • cases where interest rates exceed that permitted by Maltese law (ie, 8%) (vide judgment in Avukat Edward Debono noe v Jean Pierre sive Jean Borg, Court of Appeal, 16 September 2016);  
  • cases where the foreign procedure is fundamentally contrary to principles of natural justice as applied in Malta; and
  • matters that constitute a criminal offence in Malta.

Jurisdiction

What is the extent of the enforcing court’s power to review the personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of the foreign court that issued the judgment?

In accordance with the EU Brussels Regulation and Article 35 of the Lugano Convention, Maltese courts may review and refuse to recognise a judgment only if it conflicts with the rules on jurisdiction in relation to:

  • insurance matters;
  • consumer contracts; and
  • claims which are particularly close to the EU member state in which the object of the claim is made (eg, rights relating to immovable property).

These conditions are also found in the recast EU Brussels Regulation with the addition of individual contracts of employment.

Regarding non-EU judgments, Maltese courts have the right to review the personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of the foreign court under Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Grounds for refusal).

Concurrent proceedings and conflicting judgments

How do the courts in your jurisdiction address applications for recognition and enforcement where there are concurrent proceedings (foreign or domestic) or conflicting judgments involving the same parties/dispute?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionFor judgments which fall under the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, it is clear from Article 41 that a judgment shall be declared enforceable immediately on completion of the formalities found in Article 53 of the regulation. The decision on the application for a declaration of enforceability may be appealed and the Court of Appeal will refuse or revoke a declaration of enforceability if it is irreconcilable with a judgment given in a dispute between the same parties in the EU member state in which recognition is sought.

Recast EU Brussels RegulationFor judgments that fall within the scope of the recast EU Brussels Recast Regulation, any interested party may file an application requesting the refusal of recognition based on the ground mentioned above (Article 45).

Non-EU judgments

Non-EU judgments may be refused recognition and enforcement where a judgment conflicts with a previous judgment given in a suit on the same subject matter and between the same parties, and constitutes a res judicata, provided no plea of res judicata had been raised and determined. 

Opposition

Defences

What defences are available to the losing party to a foreign judgment that is sought to be recognised and enforced in your jurisdiction?

EU Brussels Regulation (44/2001) and Lugano ConventionUnder the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, on the completion of the formalities in Article 53 of the regulation, the court must enforce the judgment. The party against whom enforcement is sought will not be entitled to make any submissions on the application. The party may appeal on the grounds stipulated in Articles 34 and 35 of the regulation and the convention, which include the following:

  • the judgment is contrary to Maltese public policy;
  • the judgment was given in default of appearance if the defendant was not served with the document which instituted the proceedings;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with a judgment given in a dispute between the same parties in Malta;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in another EU member state or in a third state involving the same cause of action and between the same parties; or
  • the judgment conflicts with jurisdictional matters relating to insurance, consumer contracts or exclusive jurisdiction as defined in the regulation or convention.

Recast EU Brussels Regulation (1215/2012)Under the recast EU Brussels Regulation, judgments are automatically enforceable; however, any interested party may, by application, request that the recognition of a judgment be refused based on the grounds stipulated in Article 45, which are the same as those in the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention stipulated above. The recast EU Brussels Regulation also provides a ground when the judgment conflicts with jurisdictional matters relating to employment contracts when the employee was the defendant.  

Non-EU judgmentsWith respect to the enforcement of non-EU judgments, the losing party may bring defences based on the grounds stipulated in Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Grounds for refusal).

Injunctive relief

What injunctive relief is available to defendants (eg, anti-suit injunctions)?

Anti-suit injunctions are not catered for under Maltese Law. The defendant is afforded several options to challenge the recognition or enforcement of a judgment under Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Grounds for refusal).

Recognition and enforcement procedure

Formal procedure

What is the formal procedure for seeking recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment?

EU Brussels Regulation (44/2001) and Lugano ConventionThe party must file an application before the Maltese court requesting the recognition and enforcement of the foreign judgment and attach:

  • a copy of the judgment which satisfies the conditions necessary to establish its authenticity and a certified translation in English or Maltese; and
  • the certificate issued by the foreign court in the standard form found in Annex V of the regulation.

The application must be served on the defendant.

The court must declare the judgment enforceable once the abovementioned formalities have been met. The defendant will have the right to appeal based on Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Grounds for refusal).  

Recast EU Brussels Regulation (1215/2012)In accordance with Article 39 of the recast EU Brussels Regulation, a judgment given in an EU member state which is enforceable in that member state will be enforceable in the other member state without any declaration of enforceability being required. The party wishing to enforce the judgment must obtain the certificate set out in Annex I from the court of origin (Article 53) and provide the court with the certificate and a copy of the judgment and any translations into English or Maltese. The certificate and judgment must be served on the person against whom the enforcement is sought prior to the first enforcement measure.

Non-EU judgmentsArticle 826 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure provides that any judgment delivered by a competent court outside Malta that constitutes a res judicata may be enforced by the competent court in Malta, in the same manner as judgments delivered in Malta upon the filing of an application containing a demand that the enforcement of such judgment be ordered.

Timeframe

What is the typical timeframe for the proceedings to grant recognition and enforcement?

There is no typical timeframe in Malta for the proceedings to grant recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. 

Fees

What fees apply to applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

Application fees for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are generally below €100.

Security

Must the applicant for recognition and enforcement provide security for costs?

No, applicants do not need to provide security for costs. Security will be required should an appeal be filed.

Appeal

Are decisions on recognition and enforcement subject to appeal?

EU Brussels Regulation (44/2001) and Lugano ConventionA judgment will be declared enforceable immediately on completion of the formalities in Article 53 of the regulation and parties can appeal only on specific grounds.

Recast EU Brussels Regulation (1215/2012)Judgments which fall under the recast EU Brussels Regulation are automatically recognised and enforceable. An application may be filed requesting the refusal of said recognition or enforcement based on the grounds stipulated in Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Grounds for refusal). 

Non-EU judgmentsA party may file an appeal. 

Other costs

How does the enforcing court address other costs issues arising in relation to the foreign judgment (eg, calculation of interest, exchange rates)?

Applications must be filed in euros. Interest rates above 8% cannot be granted as this would go against Maltese public policy.

Enforcement against third parties

To what extent can the courts enforce a foreign judgment against third parties?

In general, Maltese courts do not enforce a foreign judgment against third parties. 

Partial recognition and enforcement

Can the courts grant partial recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

The courts may grant partial recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment – for instance, when interest rates exceed 8%, which is against Maltese public policy, said interest rates would not be granted enforcement.