The Hague Conference in Russia

Natalia Litvinova talks with the deputy head of the Information Centre of the Hague Conference in Russia, associate professor of MGIMO, an arbiter of the International Commercial Arbitration Court at the Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the managing partner of law firm Muranov, Chernyakov & Partners Dr. Alexander Muranov.

Natalia Litvinova: Marta Pertegas, First Secretary at the Hague Conference, has called the organisation the pioneer of international co-operation in private law. The conference came to life in 1893. Why then?

Alexander Muranov: There was a need for resolution of various issues of civil and trade circulation, for codification of private international law and adoption of special conventions. By that time, national states with developed legislation were formed, and at that time domestic legislations were being codified. This was a time of rapid growth of trade, flourishing of culture (and in our country too), intensive exchanges between countries. Therefore, Russia, along with 12 other countries such as Germany, France, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands, initiated the Hague Conference. In 1955 the conference was transformed into an intergovernmental organization. Today, 71 States, including Russia and the European Union (as a collective member), are members of this organization.

Natalia Litvinova: What is the purpose of the Hague Conference?

Alexander Muranov: The harmonization of private international law. The correct application of the correct rights in the correct court. Or, more precisely - the proper application of proper law in proper court. In particular, a court must correctly identify an applicable law, of its or of a foreign country, and then apply it as intended. This is the art of living in the cross-border legal context.

Natalia Litvinova: What kind of legal situations can be settled with the assistance of the conference?

Alexander Muranov: The main objective of the conference is the unification and harmonization of rules of international trade and civil circulation. The Hague conventions were adopted with this purpose in mind. The first of them, taken in the early 20th century, were devoted to family law, guardianship and civil process. Today, the Hague Conference focuses on several blocks. These, above all, are the matters of applicable law, international civil procedure, marriage and family relations, and certain institutions of commercial law.

For instance, if a contract is entered into by two persons, one from Russia and the other from France, the question arises which law should regulate their relations, Russian or French. This is the problem of applicable law, one of the key issues in private international law. The Hague Conference by means of numerous conventions (there are about 40 of them) tries to answer, in particular, the question of which country's domestic law is applicable to a particular contract or a legal relationship.

Natalia Litvinova: Which conventions of the Hague Conference did Russia join?

Alexander Muranov: So far Russia joined five conventions and signed one more.

Natalia Litvinova: Are conventions important for the enforcement of foreign judgments?

Alexander Muranov: Of course they are. The Hague Conference deals with these issues. The state apparatus, civil servants quite often cannot act on their own, they need an instruction. Conventions establish mechanisms made in the form of documents, and the states take the responsibility to help each other through these mechanisms. This is important for Russia. Our attitude to the issues of enforcement of foreign judgments lags behind the international standards and our regulation in Russia is largely obsolete. Thus, in order to enforce a foreign judgment, there must be an international treaty or a special regulation in law. Only recently our courts have begun applying a more progressive principle of reciprocity, even though there is no such rule in law. On the other hand, in our country the public policy exception is often used with the purpose of neutralizing a foreign judgement, and the public policy is often understood not the way it should be understood.

International cooperation in matters dealt with by the Hague Conference helps strengthening the Russian legal system, making it better and provides relatively specific mechanisms for the protection of individual rights in Russian and foreign courts. Unfortunately, we were cut off from the global processes for more than 70 years, and the membership in the Hague Conference has been resumed only twelve years ago. Prior to that, officials did not see the need for the membership in the conference and the money for the membership fee were not included the state budget. Now Russia is integrated into the global legal processes, courts and domestic law will develop. I think this is for the good.