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General framework

Domestic law

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

Finland is a party to a number of EU and international instruments which are the primary sources of law governing recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Finland. National law is applicable only to the extent not otherwise provided in such international conventions. The primary national legislation on recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters in Finland is the Act on International Legal Assistance and Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters. Judgments in civil and commercial matters in other Nordic countries are also subject to the Act on Recognition and Enforcement of Nordic Judgments in Civil Matters, which implements the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil Matters.

In criminal matters, the primary legislation governing enforcement is the Act on International Cooperation in the Enforcement of Certain Penal Sanctions. Regarding Nordic countries, cooperation on the execution of judgments in criminal matters is implemented in Finland under the Act on Nordic Cooperation in Criminal Matters.

International conventions

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

The most important EU and international instruments governing recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments to which Finland is a party are:

  • the Recast Brussels Regulation – EU Regulation 1215/2012 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters;
  • the Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters;
  • EU Regulation 861/2007 Establishing a European Small Claims Procedure (2015);
  • EU Regulation 1896/2006 Creating a European Order for Payment Procedure (2012 and 2015);
  • EU Regulation 805/2004 Creating a European Enforcement Order for Uncontested Claims;
  • EU Regulation 44/2001 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters;
  • the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements (2005);
  • the Convention on International Access to Justice (1980), which deals mainly with legal aid for nationals of and persons habitually resident in any contracting state but also contains provisions on the enforceability of an order for payment of costs and expenses of proceedings;
  • the Nordic Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil Matters (1977);
  • the Nordic Cooperation on Execution of Judgments in Criminal Matters Given in Other Nordic Countries (1963);
  • the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958); and
  • the Convention on Civil Procedure (1954), which deals with the enforcement of foreign orders for costs and expenses of the proceedings only.

In addition, Finland is a party to a number of bilateral treaties and other conventions applicable in, among other things, family law matters.

Competent courts

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

The district courts are competent to hear cases on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in first instance. Generally, the district court at the domicile of the party against which enforcement is sought or at the place of enforcement has jurisdiction to hear the case. District court decisions can be appealed to one of the five courts of appeal if leave for continued consideration is granted. Court of appeal judgments can be appealed to the Supreme Court only if leave to appeal is granted.

However, under the Recast Brussels Regulation, judgments rendered in other EU member states which are enforceable in the state in which they were issued may be enforced in another member state without need to obtain a declaration of enforceability from the courts. Enforcement may therefore be directly applied for with the Finnish executive authorities. Where a party wishes to apply for a decision that there are no grounds for refusal of recognition or enforcement, the application is heard by the district court.

Distinction between recognition and enforcement

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

If a judgment is ‘recognised’, it is valid and enforceable similarly to a judgment rendered by the Finnish courts. ‘Enforcement’ refers to the act of enforcing such a judgment by means of the executive authorities.

Ease of enforcement

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

As a starting point, judgments rendered by a foreign court are not recognised or enforced in Finland, unless so provided under an international agreement or a national law. If a judgment is not recognised, the matter must be re-heard in the Finnish courts and the judgment will carry evidentiary value in the proceedings.

However, judgments given in other EU member states or Nordic countries are recognised and enforced under the Recast Brussels Regulation and the Nordic Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments. In cases where there are such underlying international agreements, recognition and enforcement is fairly simple. However, securing recognition or enforcement before, for example, enforcing a judgment, is not possible.

Reform

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

No. The most recent development was the Hague Convention, which entered into force on October 1 2015. The convention applies to EU member states (with the exception of Denmark), Mexico and Singapore, but its applicability is restricted to matters based on the exclusive choice of court agreements.

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)?

Finnish courts dealing with recognition and enforcement do not have jurisdiction to review the merits of the judgment. Accordingly, the judgment is recognised and enforced irrespective of its type, provided that it is rendered in a matter that is not excluded from the applicability of the agreement. However, under most international instruments, recognition and enforcement is or may be prevented if the judgment is contrary to Finnish public policy. For example, as Finnish law does not recognise punitive damages, it is likely that a judgment would not be recognised and enforced if it awarded punitive damages or provided for other penalties that are not recognised by Finnish law (eg, physical punishments). Further, the Hague Convention explicitly provides that recognition or enforcement of a judgment may be refused if – and to the extent that – the judgment awards damages that do not compensate for actual harm or loss suffered (eg, exemplary or punitive damages).

The Recast Brussels Regulation and the Hague Convention both provide that judgments may not be recognised or enforced if the defendant was not served or notified of the document which instituted the proceedings in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable it to arrange for its defence. Judgments issued without the defendant having been given an opportunity to respond are therefore generally not recognised or enforced.

Notably, the Recast Brussels Regulation provides that if a judgment contains a measure or an order which is not known in the law of the addressed EU member state, the measure or order will be adapted to one which is known in the law of that state and which has equivalent effects and pursues similar aims and interests as the original. In addition, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has laid down that decisions on anti-suit injunctions are not recognised or enforced in other EU member states.

How are foreign judgments subject to appeal treated?

Both the Hague Convention and the Recast Brussels Regulation provide that:

  • a judgment will be enforced only if it is enforceable in the state of origin; and
  • if an appeal is pending in the country of origin, the court may suspend recognition or enforcement proceedings pending resolution to the appeal.

Under the Hague Convention, recognition or enforcement may also be refused if the judgment is subject to review or the time limit for seeking ordinary review has not expired. Such refusals do not prevent subsequent applications for recognition or enforcement.

Formal requirements

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

Under the Recast Brussels Regulation, judgments rendered in civil and commercial matters in another EU member state are recognised and enforced irrespective of the nature of the court or tribunal rendering the judgment or what the judgment is called. The documentary requirements for recognition and enforcement are:

  • a copy of the judgment which satisfies the conditions necessary to establish its authenticity; and
  • a certificate issued by the court rendering the judgment certifying that it is enforceable and containing an extract of it (the Recast Brussels Regulation contains a form of such a certificate).

The Hague Convention deals with the recognition and enforcement of judgments rendered by the courts of a contracting state in international civil or commercial matters, provided that the matter has been designated by the parties under an exclusive choice of court agreement. For the purpose of the Hague Convention, an exclusive choice of court agreement must be concluded in writing or by any other means of communication which renders information accessible for further reference. In addition, the agreement must designate the courts of one contracting state or one or more specific courts of one contracting state, to the exclusion of other courts, as the forum for settling disputes. Such agreements are considered exclusive unless expressly provided otherwise by the parties. Parties seeking recognition or applying for enforcement must provide:

  • a complete and certified copy of the judgment;
  • the exclusive choice of court agreement, a certified copy thereof or other evidence of its existence;
  • if the judgment was rendered by default, the original or a certified copy of a document establishing that the document which instituted the proceedings or an equivalent document was notified to the defaulting party;
  • any documents necessary to establish that the judgment has effect or, where applicable, is enforceable in the country of origin; and
  • in the case of a judicial settlement, a certificate issued by a court in the state of origin holding that the settlement or a part of it is enforceable in the same manner as a judgment in that state.

Applications for recognition and enforcement may be accompanied by a document, issued by a court in the country of origin, in the form recommended and published by the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

If recognition and enforcement is sought on the basis of an international agreement that does not contain provisions on the recognition and enforcement procedure, the Act on Legal Assistance and Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters provides that an application for declaration of enforceability must be submitted with the district court. The act does not specify the formal requirements for recognition and enforcement, as the legislature intends that such requirements are set forth in the international agreement on which the recognition or enforcement is based.

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?

Finnish authorities dealing with the recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment are not permitted to review the judgment on the merits, unless the judgment is contrary to Finnish public policy.

As previously mentioned, the Recast Brussels Regulation provides that if a judgment contains a measure or order which is not known in the law of the addressed EU member state, the measure or order will be adapted to one which is known in the law of that state and which has equivalent effects and pursues similar aims and interests as the original. In addition, the ECJ has laid down that decisions on anti-suit injunctions are not recognised or enforced in other EU member states. Finally, the Hague Convention provides that recognition or enforcement of a judgment may be refused if – and to the extent that – the judgment awards damages that do not compensate for actual harm or loss suffered (eg, exemplary or punitive damages).

Limitation period

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

In Finland, no limitation period is specifically applicable to the enforcement of foreign judgments. However, under the Act on Statutes of Limitations of Receivables, a receivable which is the subject of an enforceable judgment becomes statute-barred five years after the judgment has been issued. In addition, following the Enforcement Code, judgments given against natural persons have a final limitation period and must be enforced against such persons within 15 or, in some cases, 20 years after the judgment has been rendered. The limitation period of 15 or 20 years can be prolonged by a court judgment in certain circumstances.

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds can recognition and enforcement be refused?

Foreign court judgments are recognised and enforced in Finland only where so provided in an international agreement or a specific law. Since recognition and enforcement is thus based on a separate instrument, which usually includes provisions on challenging or grounds for refusing enforcement, the Act on Legal Assistance and Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters does not contain any provisions on the subject.

The Recast Brussels Regulation provides that recognition or enforcement of a judgment will be refused if:

  • such recognition or enforcement is manifestly contrary to public policy;
  • the judgment was given in default of appearance where the defendant was not served with the relevant document that instituted the proceedings so that it could arrange for its defence, unless the defendant failed to challenge the proceedings;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with a judgment between the same parties given in the member state addressed;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in another country involving the same cause of action and between the same parties, provided that the earlier judgment fulfils the conditions necessary for its recognition in the member state addressed; or
  • the judgment conflicts with the regulation’s provisions on jurisdiction in, among other things, insurance, consumer or employment contract matters.

Under the Hague Convention, recognition or enforcement may be refused if:

  • the exclusive choice of court agreement is null and void under the law of the state of the chosen court, unless the chosen court has determined that the agreement is valid;
  • a party lacks the capacity to conclude the agreement under the law of the requested state;
  • the document which instituted the proceedings and included the essential elements of the claim either:
    • was not notified to the defendant in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable it to arrange for its defence, unless the defendant entered an appearance and presented its case without contesting notification in the court of origin; or
    • was notified to the defendant in the requested state in a manner that is incompatible with fundamental principles of the requested state concerning service of documents;
  • the judgment was obtained by fraud in connection with a matter of procedure;
  • recognition or enforcement would be manifestly incompatible with the public policy of the requested state, including cases where the specific proceedings leading to the judgment were incompatible with the state’s fundamental principles of procedural fairness;
  • the judgment is inconsistent with a judgment given in the requested state in a dispute between the same parties; or
  • the judgment is inconsistent with an earlier judgment given in another state between the same parties on the same cause of action, provided that the earlier judgment fulfils the conditions necessary for its recognition in the requested state.

Recognition or enforcement of a judgment may also be refused if – and to the extent that – the judgment was based on a ruling on a matter that is excluded from the application of the Hague Convention (eg, maintenance obligations and other family law matters, wills and successions, and insolvency matters). The Hague Convention also provides that recognition or enforcement of a judgment may be refused if – and to the extent that – the judgment awards damages that do not compensate for actual harm or loss suffered (eg, punitive damages).

Service of process

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

     Generally, the enforcing court does not review the service of process in the original proceedings. However, under the Recast Brussels Regulation and the Hague Convention, recognition and enforcement of a judgment – including a decision on provisional measures – may be refused if the judgment was rendered without the defendant being summoned to appear, unless the judgment is served on the defendant before the enforcement. In addition, recognition or enforcement may be refused if the document which instituted the proceedings was not notified to the defendant so that it could arrange for its defence or – under the Hague Convention – if the document was notified to the defendant in a manner that is incompatible with the requested state’s fundamental principles on service. Therefore, the enforcing court will examine the service of process if a party contests recognition or enforcement invoking any of these grounds.

Service of documents abroad was dealt with in the Helsinki Court of Appeal judgment 1923 (June 28 2013) and, in relation to the Lugano Convention, in case KKO 1998:72.

Where a foreign judgment has been rendered by default, both the Hague Convention and the Recast Brussels Convention provide that the party seeking recognition and enforcement must provide evidence that the document instituting the proceedings was notified to the defaulting party.

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?

Finnish courts may refuse recognition and enforcement of judgments that are manifestly contrary to Finnish public policy. Publicly available case law on the topic is scarce; however, in the Helsinki Court of Appeal judgment 3232 (December 13 2013), the fact that a parent company as parallel employer was held liable for the severance payments of its subsidiary’s employees was not considered manifestly contrary to Finnish public policy. Further, in a June 27 2012 Espoo District Court decision, the court held that a daily delay payment of €150 ordered by a French court was also not contrary to Finnish public policy.

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?

Under the Recast Brussels Regulation, the enforcing court may not review the jurisdiction of the court of origin. Under the Hague Convention, the court where recognition and enforcement is sought will be bound by the findings of fact on which the court of origin based its jurisdiction, unless the judgment was rendered by default.

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?

Under the Hague Convention and the Recast Brussels Regulation, the enforcing court may refuse recognition or enforcement if the judgment is inconsistent with:

  • a judgment given in the requested state in a dispute between the same parties; or
  • an earlier judgment given in another state between the same parties on the same cause of action, provided that the earlier judgment fulfils the conditions necessary for its recognition in the requested state.

The Act on Legal Assistance and Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters contains no provisions on the topic, thereby leaving regulation to each relevant international agreement.

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?

In addition to contesting applications for recognition and enforcement, under the Recast Brussels Regulation, any interested party can apply for the refusal of recognition and the party against which enforcement is sought can apply for refusal of enforcement with the district court independent of any recognition or enforcement action. This was not possible under the Brussels I Regulation (44/2001) as confirmed by the Helsinki Court of Appeal judgment 17 (October 12 2012).

Injunctive relief

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

No injunctive relief is available for defendants in recognition and enforcement matters. Despite a 2001 Helsinki District Court judgment (6757, unreported) indicating the opposite, it is clear that anti-suit injunctions are not available in Finland.

Recognition and enforcement procedure

Formal procedure

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

Judgments issued in EU member states are recognised in other member states without special procedure and are enforced without need for declaration of enforceability, as set forth in the Recast Brussels Regulation. Such decisions are recognised in Finland in the same way as judgments issued by the national courts. A party that wishes to invoke a judgment must produce:

  • a copy of the judgment which satisfies the conditions necessary to establish its authenticity; and
  • a certificate issued by the court of origin regarding the judgment using the form annexed to the Recast Brussels Regulation.

In addition, by filing an application appended by these documents, a party may apply to a local district court for a decision that there is no grounds for refusal of recognition.

Judgments rendered in other EU member states are enforceable in Finland under the same conditions as national judgments. Enforcement may be sought with the Finnish executive authorities and applicants must produce:

  • a copy of the judgment which satisfies the conditions necessary to establish its authenticity; and
  • a certificate issued by the court of origin certifying that the judgment is enforceable using the form annexed to the Recast Brussels Regulation.

Under the Hague Convention, procedures for recognition, declaration of enforceability and enforcement are governed by the law of the requested state unless the convention provides otherwise. In turn, the Act on Legal Assistance and Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters provides that a foreign judgment will be declared enforceable by a district court on application and that this will be dealt with as a non-contentious matter. Once the court has issued its decision on the enforceability of the judgment, enforcement may be sought with the Finnish executive authorities.

Timeframe

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

The average timeframe for the district court to handle an application for declaration of enforceability is five months if the opposing party files a response in the case. If the opposing party does not file a response, the case can be handled quicker. The executive authorities will commence enforcing measures within days of receiving an application for enforcement, provided that the application contains all the required documents. However, the documentation is often incomplete and additional documents must be requested. As such, the process for complementing the application can take months.

Fees

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

Court and enforcement authority fees are modest in Finland. In cases where a declaration of enforceability is applied for from the district courts, the court fee is €250 or €500 depending on whether the application is contested. The enforcement authorities charge different fees, which usually depend on the amount to be paid to the creditor as a result of the enforcement. In general, the maximum fee payable by the party seeking enforcement is €500 per account payable.

Security

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

The Recast Brussels Regulation expressly provides that no security is required of an EU-member state party which applies for the enforcement of a judgment given in another member state on the grounds that it is a foreign national. However, if an application for refusal of enforcement is pending, the party against which enforcement is sought may apply to the district court to make the enforcement conditional on the provision of security. Similarly, the enforcement authorities may take certain enforcement measures on the provision of security if the judgment underlying the enforcement is not final and enforceable, but is subject to appeal.

Appeal

Are decisions on recognition and enforcement subject to appeal?

District court decisions on declaration of enforceability or refusal of enforcement, or that find no grounds for refusal of recognition, may be appealed to the court of appeal provided that the court grants leave for continued consideration. Court of appeal decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court provided that it grants leave to appeal.

Decisions made by the executive authorities may be appealed to designated district courts.

Other costs

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

The Brussels Recast Regulation provides that the court issuing the judgment to be recognised or enforced must issue a certificate regarding the judgment using a form annexed to the regulation. The form addresses cost issues (eg, interest), indicating that such issues have been clarified – to a large extent – by the court issuing the judgment.

The question has not been regulated in relation to non-EU judgments, which presumably entails that the enforcing authorities interpret the judgment and enforce it in accordance with their interpretation.

Enforcement against third parties

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

Judgments are enforceable against only the debtor in the relevant judgment. Unless it can be demonstrated that the receivable has been transferred to a third party (eg, by means of universal succession), the judgment cannot be enforced against a party other than that which is mentioned as the debtor in the judgment.

Partial recognition and enforcement

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

The Hague Convention provides that recognition and enforcement of a judgment may be refused if – and to the extent that – the judgment was based on a matter excluded from the application of the convention or the judgment awards damages that do not compensate for actual loss. Therefore, judgments may be partially recognised and enforced under the Hague Convention. Partial recognition and enforcement is also possible in other cases, provided that the relevant claims can be separated.