On 27 October 2017, the Council of Ministers approved the joint plan of Prime Minister Charles Michel and the Justice Minister Koen Geens to establish a new kind of international business court. This English-speaking court will be named “Brussels International Business Court” (“BIBC”) and aims to attract potential conflicts arising from Brexit as well as commercial disputes between international businesses. The court is unique in its kind since it will be the first English-speaking court in a country where English is not an official language.
The BIBC could be described as a hybrid court as it will combine elements of a regular national court with the advantages of arbitration. Parties will be able to decide voluntarily to bring proceedings before the BIBC and choose which law should apply. Arguments will be held in English and decisions will be drafted in English. Appeals will not be possible against these decisions, meaning proceedings will be accelerated. In addition, the BIBC will be presided by both professional and lay judges. The latter will either be lawyers or university professors specialised in International Trade Law. Due to the magistrates' high level of expertise and quality, proceedings will run quickly, efficiently and predictably.
Given the increase in international trade over the past decades, where the language of choice is mainly English and non-English contracts are exceptions to the rule, this initiative can only be applauded. Up until now, the Belgian judicial system only consisted of Dutch-, French- and German-speaking courts, which isn't efficient in an international (English-speaking) context. Currently, international trading partners have to resort to foreign courts or arbitration to settle disputes. This isn't consistent with our capital's aim to position itself as an international business hub.
Also, as a consequence of the impending Brexit, we can expect an increase in the number of international trade disputes. Accessing courts in the United Kingdom will become more difficult. By offering this new legal tool, the Belgian government tries to address the needs and expectations that international trading partners will have in the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, this initiative goes hand in hand with the upcoming reforms and modernisation of Belgian company law, which are aimed at strengthening our competitive position both on a European and an international level. Thanks to the establishment of the BIBC, Brussels, and by extension Belgium, will become more attractive to international entrepreneurs and investors.