El TEDH considera injustificada la denegación de la ejecución de un laudo CCI contra el Fondo Nacional de la Propiedad de Eslovaquia (STEDH 30 junio 2022, caso BTS Holding, A.S. v. Slovakia, nº 55617/17)

La Sentencia de Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos de 30 de junio de 2022, Primera sección (caso BTS Holding, A.S. v. Slovakia, Application no. 55617/17) consideró injustificada la denegación  de la ejecución del laudo arbitral internacional definitivo y vinculante contra el Fondo Nacional de la Propiedad tras la rescisión del contrato de compraventa de una propiedad del Estado en proceso de privatización

La controversia original surgió a raíz de la rescisión de un acuerdo de compra de acciones (el » SPA «) celebrado en 2006 entre BTS y el Fondo Nacional de la Propiedad para la adquisición por parte de BTS de una participación mayoritaria en el aeropuerto de Bratislava. BTS inició un arbitraje ante la la CCI contra FNP en 2010 en virtud de una cláusula de arbitraje contenida en el SPA.

El tribunal arbitral, constituido bajo las Reglas de Arbitraje de la CCI, emitió un laudo arbitral el 8 de junio de 2012 que la FNP debería pagar a BTS” (i) un monto principal de 1.894.597,52 euros (EUR), y (ii) un interés del 14,25% por anual de 1.853.584,45 EUR para el período comprendido entre el 13 de marzo de 2009 y el pago total de la prima ” ( BTS Holding v. Slovakia , best. 15-17).

Negativa de los tribunales eslovacos a ejecutar el laudo arbitral

En febrero de 2013, BTS solicitó la ejecución de la sentencia de la CPI en Eslovaquia. En 2014, el Tribunal de Distrito de Bratislava II inició un procedimiento de ejecución al autorizar a un alguacil a ejecutar el laudo arbitral. Sin embargo, la FPN se opuso a la solicitud argumentando, entre otras cosas, que

  • no existió acuerdo de arbitraje; y
  • la ejecución del laudo arbitral sería contraria al orden público eslovaco.

En agosto de 2014, el Tribunal de Distrito de Bratislava II confirmó la objeción y también lo hizo en marzo de 2015, el Tribunal Regional de Bratislava. En octubre de 2015 puso fin al procedimiento de ejecución

En agosto de 2015, BTS presentó una demanada contra las sentencias antes mencionadas ante el Tribunal Constitucional de Eslovaquia alegando que se habían violado sus derechos a un juicio justo y a la protección de la propiedad. En noviembre de 2018, el Tribunal Constitucional declaró inadmisible el recurso.

Así las cosas BTS  apeló ante el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos en julio de 2017.

Sentencia del Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos

En su sentencia dictada el 30 junio 2022 en el caso BTS Sosteniendo v. Eslovaquia, el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos (la «TEDH«) sostuvo que Eslovaquia había violado los derechos de BTS Holding («BTS«) derecho a la propiedad cuando sus tribunales se negaron arbitrariamente a ejecutar un laudo arbitral contra el Fondo Nacional de Propiedad de Eslovaquia (la «FPN«).

El TEDH llegó a esta decisión aplicando el principio de protección del derecho de propiedad establecido en el artículo 1 del Protocolo del Convenio para la Protección de los Derechos Humanos y las Libertades Fundamentales de fecha 20 marzo 1952 («N.° de protocolo. 1«), que dice lo siguiente:

Toda persona natural o jurídica tiene derecho al goce pacífico de sus bienes. Nadie puede ser privado de sus bienes sino por causa de interés público y en las condiciones previstas por la ley y por los principios generales del derecho internacional..

Las disposiciones anteriores no menoscaban en modo alguno el derecho de un Estado a hacer cumplir las leyes que considere necesarias para controlar el uso o la propiedad de acuerdo con el interés general o para garantizar el pago de impuestos u otras contribuciones o sanciones.

De acuerdo con el TEDH:

66. It notes the domestic courts’ assessment to the effect that the enforcement was precluded because (i) there had effectively been no arbitration clause in place to establish the jurisdiction of the ICC Tribunal, (ii) the award did not specify a time frame for compliance and was not accompanied by a certificate of the date of its becoming enforceable, (iii) the award concerned a large sum of money that would have to be paid at the expense of the tax payers, (iv) prior to the award the parties had waived the right of recourse, and (v) the transaction underlying the awarded amount had had to do with the protection of competition.

67. As regards point (i), the Court observes that, as acknowledged by the domestic courts, under the applicable domestic law a recission of a contract as such has no impact on the validity of an arbitration clause. In view of this rule, it finds it arbitrary for the District Court to hold, without any analysis, that the 2008 settlement subsumed the arbitration clause in the SPA and for the Regional Court to offer no specific conclusion on this question (see paragraph 10 and 27 above). In addition, the Court notes that under the ICC Tribunal’s terms of reference the parties submitted their dispute to the ICC Tribunal and that neither of them objected to its jurisdiction in the course of the arbitration proceedings.

68. Concerning point (ii), it cannot be brought into question that the award contained an order for payment which was binding on the parties and that by submitting their dispute to the ICC Tribunal the parties had undertaken to abide by the award without delay, as provided for by the ICC Arbitration Rules and certified by the ICA Secretary General in his statement of 19 December 2012. The Court likewise notes that, under the general rules of procedure before the ordinary courts in Slovakia at the relevant time, which were to be used if the given matter was not addressed by the specific rules concerning arbitration, a tribunal’s order was to be complied with within three days of it becoming final and binding, unless the order provided otherwise (see paragraphs 38 and 40 above). Furthermore, the Court observes that this ground for refusing enforcement was established by the court of appeal beyond and above the grounds advanced by the NPF in its objection without giving the applicant company an opportunity to respond.

69. In relation to point (iii), the Court notes that the debtor under the award was the NPF, that this entity was in fact an agency of the State, that the payments it was ordered to make under the award originated from an investment transaction it had entered into with the applicant company on the basis of a contract of a private-law nature, and that, as noted by the courts themselves, the payment under the award would ultimately have to be made from the State budget. However, as previously recognised by the Court, a lack of funds cannot justify an omission by a State authority to honour a judgment debt (see Burdov v. Russia, no. 59498/00, § 41, ECHR 2002-III).

70. As to points (iv) and (v), the Court observes first of all that, similarly to point (ii), they had not been advanced by the NPF but had been relied on by the court of appeal without giving the applicant company an opportunity to respond. The former of these grounds relied on the provision of Article 28 § 6 of the ICC Arbitration Rules concerning a waiver by the parties to an ICC arbitration of the right to recourse. However, under the provision in question, any such waiver was clearly intended only “insofar as [it could] validly be made”. To the extent the court of appeal referred to the notion of the protection of competition as a component of point (v), the Court likewise finds it difficult to follow its rationale. It is uncontested that the transaction intended under the SPA necessitated approval by the AMO and that no such approval was issued within the time frame defined by the SPA, which was the reason for the NPF’s rescinding of that contract. However, there is no indication that the lack of approval within a given time frame amounted to an actual refusal of the transaction. In fact, no decision on the merits of this matter was ever taken by the AMO. There is accordingly no indication that the intended transaction was contrary to the rules on competition. Moreover, and irrespective of that, the transaction was effectively rescinded, the payment to be made under the award concerned claims related to that rescission, and there has not been any suggestion that the satisfaction of those claims would in any way impact on competition.

71. In view of the above considerations, it would appear that the grounds relied on by the domestic courts were not given and/or fell outside the legal framework for denying enforcement of a foreign arbitration award allowed by the provisions of the domestic law and the New York Convention (see paragraphs 37, 41 and 44 above). Be that as it may, and even assuming that denying enforcement of the award on these grounds served a general interest, it has not been shown that it was proportionate to that aim. In that regard, the Court notes again that the Government have advanced no arguments on this aspect of the case and that, while focusing on elements which purportedly precluded the enforcement by reason of public policy or procedural formalities, the domestic courts took no account of the requirements of the protection of the applicant company’s fundamental rights and the need for a fair balance to be struck between them and the general interest of the community rights (see Sporrong and Lönnroth v. Sweden, 23 September 1982, § 69, Series A no. 52). 72. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the refusal to enforce the applicant company’s arbitration award was not justified for the purposes of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. 73. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

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