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The European Arbitration Review 2020

Austria

Austria has successfully defended its position as one of the leading hubs of international arbitration in Europe over the past few years. Its strong reputation is based on a reliable legal framework dating back to the codification of the Austrian Code of Civil Procedure (ACCP) in the late 19th century. To satisfy the requirements of a modern approach to arbitration, the needs and demands of legal practice, and to be one step ahead of its competitors, Austria has amended its arbitration law twice since 2006. Prior to these major reforms, only a few minor changes had been introduced since 1895. Together with its arbitration-friendly case law, this modern legal framework has contributed to the high popularity of Austria as a place of arbitration.

The strength and steady expansion of Austria’s reputation are supported by its leading arbitration practitioners having an excellent reputation as both party representatives and arbitrators, but also on an academic level. The legal education in the field of arbitration and the training of thousands of students having an interest in international arbitration becomes obvious every year when the Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot takes place in Vienna. The University of Vienna in particular has gained recognition as a leading academic centre in the field of investment and commercial arbitration. Moreover, the Danube University offers a certified programme on international dispute resolution, with a focus on international arbitration. These efforts at the academic level will help to foster the strength and expand the international recognition of Austrian arbitration practitioners.

Aside from the legal framework and its background, the prominence of Austria as an arbitral seat is founded on its geographical location and stable political conditions, and Vienna and the other major cities in particular are easily accessible and provide a perfect infrastructure for accommodating the needs of users of international arbitration. Vienna, as the home of various international organisations, has maintained a significant position as a top venue for international arbitration for decades, which is attributable to the Vienna International Arbitral Centre, one of the world-­leading arbitral institutions fostering the use of arbitration. Therefore, Vienna is one of the preferred places for arbitration, particularly for parties from central, east and southeast Europe.

Austrian arbitration law

The first codification on arbitration law was enacted as part of the ACCP in the 19th century. At that time, the legal environment was already arbitration-friendly. The former arbitration law already provided for arbitral awards having the effect of a final and binding court judgment, and furthermore, as an ancillary provision, the Austrian Enforcement Act already provided (and still provides) for an avoidance of exequatur proceedings for domestic awards. [1] The law proved to be a well-functioning framework, and – together with the neutral status of Austria – served to attract a large number of East–West disputes, and to sustain Austria’s reputation as an arbitration-welcoming jurisdiction long after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In 2006, the 1985 version of the UNCITRAL Model Law (the Model Law) was largely incorporated into the Austrian Arbitration Amendment Act 2006 to meet the recognised international standards of arbitration. [2] These provisions apply to arbitration agreements concluded and arbitral proceedings commenced on or after 1 July 2006. Therefore, provisions of the old law that provide for formal requirements may still be applicable today. Yet, according to section 583(3) ACCP, formal defects of an arbitration agreement are cured if they are not invoked by a party before entering into an argument on the substance of the dispute.

On 1 January 2014, the Austrian Arbitration Act 2013 came into force, providing for new proceedings for the challenge of an arbitral award, claims regarding the declaration of the existence and non-existence of an arbitral award, and for proceedings concerning the constitution of an arbitral tribunal. Since this latest revision, the Austrian Supreme Court is the first and final instance in relation to these proceedings in most cases. Austria is therefore one of the few countries where arbitral awards are subject to only a single instance of set-aside proceedings.

The current arbitration law is embedded in Part 4 ACCP and closely follows the structure of the Model Law, with Chapters 1 to 10 including provisions on:

  • the law’s scope of application;
  • arbitration agreements;
  • constitution of arbitral tribunals and the challenge of arbitrators;
  • jurisdiction of arbitral tribunals (including jurisdiction for interim measures);
  • conduct of arbitral proceedings;
  • the making of awards (including the applicable law) and termination of the proceedings;
  • proceedings on setting aside an award;
  • recognition and declaration of enforceability of foreign awards;
  • applicable procedural rules on state court proceedings relating to arbitration; and
  • special provisions on consumer and labour law disputes.

Unlike the Model Law, the Austrian Arbitration Act does not distinguish between domestic and international arbitration and applies to all proceedings, irrespective of whether the dispute is of a commercial character. Pursuant to section 577(1) ACCP, the Austrian provisions on arbitration apply to all proceedings having their seat in Austria. Furthermore, according to section 577(2) ACCP, a number of provisions are applicable even if the place of arbitration is abroad or has not yet been determined. These provisions mainly govern topics concerning court assistance and court intervention in support of arbitration. [3] According to section 577(3) ACCP, certain provisions also apply where the place of arbitration has not yet been agreed and at least one of the parties has its seat, domicile or ordinary residence in Austria. This set of provisions concerns court assistance on issues relating to the constitution of the arbitral tribunal (and challenges of arbitrators).

Austria is a party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards of 1958 (the New York Convention) and the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration. It is a member state of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention, which entered into force for Austria in 1971, and of the Energy Charter Treaty and its subsequent documents, namely the Trade Amendment and Protocol on Energy Efficiency and related Environmental Aspects. In 2015, Austria signed the International Energy Charter. So far, the country has signed more than 60 bilateral investment agreements, mostly with capital importing states. Typically, they provide for investor-state arbitration under the UNCITRAL Rules, the ICSID or the International Chamber of Commerce Rules. However, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the competence to negotiate and conclude agreements on investment protection has been shifted to the European Union.

Arbitrability

Austrian arbitration law provides for a very broad scope of the notion of arbitrability. According to section 582(1) ACCP, any claim involving an economic interest – and therefore all pecuniary claims – that falls, within the jurisdiction of the courts of law, is arbitrable. Claims that do not involve such economic interest can only be subject to arbitration as far as they may be subjected to a settlement agreement between the parties. According to section 582(2) ACCP, claims in family law matters, claims based on contracts subject to the Tenancy Act or the Non-Profit Housing Act, and all claims relating to condominium property are non-arbitrable. However, section 582(2) ACCP does not contain an exhaustive list, and other statutes provide for further cases of non-arbitrability. For example, disputes arising out of collective labour agreements and matters of social security law are non-arbitrable according to section 9(2) of the Labour and Social Courts Act.

Content and form requirements of the arbitration agreement

Section 581(1) ACCP defines the term ‘arbitration agreement’ as an agreement by the parties to submit to arbitration all or certain disputes that have arisen or may arise between them in respect of a defined legal relationship, whether contractual or not. The arbitration agreement may be concluded in the form of a separate agreement or a clause within a contract. In other words, section 581(1) ACCP refers to minimum content requirements of a valid arbitration agreement. According to these minimum requirements, the parties must be defined or at least definable in the context of the contractual relationship, the arbitration agreement must refer to a defined legal relationship and the parties’ will to have their dispute resolved by an arbitral tribunal must be expressed in the arbitration agreement.

Section 583 ACCP regulates the relevant form requirements and provides that an arbitration agreement must be contained either in a written document signed by the parties or in an exchange of letters, telefax letters, emails or other communication between the parties that provides proof of the existence of the agreement. In addition, when a contract that fulfils these form requirements refers to a document that contains an arbitration agreement, it shall also constitute an arbitration agreement, provided that the reference is such that it makes the arbitration agreement part of the contract (ie, the arbitration agreement referred to does not need to be attached to the signed document). Furthermore, a defect of form of the arbitration agreement is cured in the arbitration proceedings by entering into an argument on the merits of the dispute, unless an objection is raised no later than together with the first argument on the merits. Once the formal defect has been cured, the respective party is barred from relying on it in the course of the arbitral proceedings, as well as in pertaining proceedings before state courts.

Consumer and labour law disputes

Disputes where at least one party is a consumer are, in principle, arbitrable. However, Austrian arbitration law stipulates in section 617 ACCP numerous preconditions for the validity of respective arbitration agreements.

Such arbitration agreements have to be contained in a separate document, distinct from the main contract. This distinct document must be signed separately by the parties. Thus, incorporation by means of reference would not constitute a valid agreement (eg, in general terms and conditions, or conclusion by any other means of telecommunication, such as email). Furthermore, the arbitration agreement with a consumer is only valid if it is concluded after the dispute has already arisen, and the place of arbitration must be expressly stipulated. The arbitral tribunal may only meet for an oral hearing and the taking of evidence at another place, if the consumer has consented thereto, or if significant difficulties hinder the taking of evidence at the place of arbitration. In addition, the arbitration agreement is concluded between an entrepreneur and a consumer, the consumer must, prior to submitting to arbitration, be provided with a written legal advice notice regarding the differences between arbitration and court proceedings. Moreover, if the arbitration agreement was concluded between an entrepreneur and a consumer, and where, either at the time of concluding the arbitration agreement or at the time the arbitral proceedings are commenced, the consumer did not have his or her domicile, ordinary residence or place of work in the country where the arbitral tribunal has its place of arbitration, the arbitration agreement is only binding if the consumer invokes it. Section 617(6) and (7) ACCP provides for additional grounds for the setting aside of an award if one party to the arbitration was a consumer. As such, arbitration proceedings involving consumers rarely ever occur in Austria.

The same limitations apply to labour law disputes, with an exception for disputes involving the management board members of stock corporations and managing directors of limited liability companies.

The Austrian Supreme Court held that the notion of a consumer under section 617 ACCP corresponds with the definition under the Consumer Protection Act, and that section 617 ACCP applies to corporate transactions. [4] Whether a party may be qualified as a consumer has to be determined from an economic point of view (degree of influence on the management of the corporation). [5] Therefore, in the particular constellation where minority shareholders are involved and where Austrian law is applicable, corporate disputes may be considered consumer disputes and the arbitration clause may be invalid if it is incorporated in the articles of association.

Appointment of arbitrators

In a deviation from the Model Law, Austrian arbitration law requires an uneven number of arbitrators pursuant to section 586(1) ACCP. Where the parties agree on an even number of arbitrators, the arbitrators appointed have to appoint another arbitrator to serve as chairperson of the tribunal. In the event that the parties have not agreed on the number of arbitrators, Austrian law stipulates that the tribunal shall consist of three arbitrators.

In addition, Austrian law provides for a default appointment procedure in multiparty proceedings, which is not covered by the Model Law. When several parties on one side of the proceedings fail to jointly appoint an arbitrator within the period of four weeks, any party to the arbitral proceedings is allowed to request the state court to appoint an arbitrator for this group of parties (section 586(5) ACCP). However, this does not lead to the opposing party losing its right to appoint an arbitrator of its own choosing. This provision lacks an equivalent in the Model Law.

Mandatory provisions, party autonomy and the discretionary power of the tribunal

Arbitration proceedings under Austrian arbitration law are characterised by significant party autonomy and, in matters not governed by party agreement, broad discretionary power of the arbitral tribunal regarding the conduct of the proceedings. This party autonomy and the discretion of the arbitral tribunal are naturally limited by mandatory rules. Among such mandatory rules are the parties’ right to equal treatment, the right to be heard, objective arbitrability and the rules on challenging an arbitrator, applications for interim measures and setting aside an arbitral award. However, Austrian law does not contain an exhaustive list of mandatory provisions. Whether a provision is of mandatory nature or not has to be derived from its purpose.

Interim measures

In accordance with the Model Law, the Austrian Arbitration Act does not bar a party from applying for interim measures before a state court even if the dispute is subject to an arbitration agreement. However, the competence to issue interim measures does not lie primarily with the state courts. The arbitral tribunal may render interim or protective measures in accordance with section 593 ACCP.

This said, ex parte interim measures can only be granted by Austrian state courts as section 593 ACCP provides that a tribunal may issue interim measures only after hearing the other party.

The arbitral tribunal has the authority to render such interim measures as it deems necessary and even if such measures are unknown to Austrian law. Interim measures issued by an arbitral tribunal are enforceable before Austrian state courts and only subject to scrutiny on grounds similar to the grounds for refusal of enforcement of an arbitral award. Furthermore, Austrian courts enforce interim measures issued by arbitral tribunals having their seat outside Austria or in the event the seat of arbitration has not yet been determined without separate exequatur proceedings. Where the interim measure is of a type unknown to Austrian law, the courts may – after hearing the opposing party – transform it to a type of interim measure known under Austria law that most closely reflects the measure as issued by the tribunal.

Challenge of arbitral awards

Section 611 ACCP sets forth the grounds for the setting aside of an award as well as the applicable time limits. Accordingly, an award is to be set aside in the following circumstances:

  • a valid arbitration agreement does not exist, or the arbitral tribunal has denied its jurisdiction despite the existence of a valid arbitration agreement, or a party was under an incapacity to conclude a valid arbitration agreement under the law governing its personal status;
  • a party was not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator or of the arbitral proceedings or was, for other reasons, unable to adequately present its case;
  • the award deals with a dispute not covered by the arbitration agreement or contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement or the plea of the parties for legal protection – if the default concerns only a part of the award that can be separated, only that part of the award shall be set aside;
  • the composition or constitution of the arbitral tribunal was not in accordance with a provision of this chapter (of the ACCP) or with an admissible agreement of the parties;
  • the arbitral proceedings were conducted in a manner that conflicts with the fundamental values of the Austrian legal system (public policy) – this provision is much narrower than the parallel provision contained in the UNCITRAL Model Law and many other jurisdictions, as violations of the agreed procedure constitute grounds for the setting aside of an award only if such violation is severe enough to constitute a violation of procedural public policy;
  • certain requirements according to which a court judgment can be appealed by an action for reopening of the proceedings (certain criminal actions);
  • the subject matter of the dispute is not arbitrable under Austrian law; or
  • the arbitral award conflicts with the fundamental values of the Austrian legal system (public policy).

The grounds for setting aside based on non-arbitrability of the matter in dispute, and relating to the award conflicting with the fundamental values of the Austrian legal system (public policy), have to be considered ex officio. In general, an action for setting aside an award has to be brought within three months after the award has been received by the claimant. [6] Importantly, the setting aside of an arbitral award does not affect the validity of the underlying arbitration agreement. [7]

The most important amendment of the Austrian Arbitration Act 2013, which came into force on 1 January 2014, mainly concerns challenge proceedings – for almost all claims for the setting aside of an arbitral award, the Austrian Supreme Court is now the first and final instance (and also for claims regarding the declaration on the existence or non-existence of an arbitral award and state court assistance concerning the constitution of the arbitral tribunal). Only in disputes involving consumers and in matters of labour law do the former procedural rules of the Austrian Arbitration Act remain in force. Therefore, in these two matters, three instances are available, in principle, for the proceedings seeking the setting aside of the award.

Recognition and enforcement

Awards rendered by an arbitral tribunal having its seat in Austria are executory titles eo ipso under the Austrian Enforcement Act and do not require a declaration of enforceability of a domestic court. It is sufficient to enclose with the application for enforcement a copy of the award containing a confirmation of its final and binding nature and enforceability issued by the chairperson or, if the chairperson is unable to do so, by another arbitrator.The recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards is governed mainly by the New York Convention. Austrian courts widely recognise the necessity for an internationally uniform application of the New York Convention.

Notably, where an arbitral award covered by the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration of 1961 has been successfully challenged in the country of origin due to a violation of public policy, this does not by itself constitute a ground for refusal of enforcement in Austria, provided that the award is not incompatible with the Austrian legal order.

Recent decisions and cases

Distinction between arbitration and expert determination

In a decision rendered in late 2018, [8] the Austrian Supreme Court had an opportunity to juxtapose the characteristic elements of arbitration and expert determination.

The court established that arbitrators’ responsibilities are to:

  • determine the disputed facts;
  • subsume them under the applicable legal norms; and
  • determine the resulting legal consequences in a binding manner.

According to the court, the arbitrators do not exercise an activity under private law but rather an activity that is by its very nature an official one.

With respect to expert determination, the Austrian Supreme Court held that it involves establishing individual elements of fact of a factual or legal nature and, if necessary, supplementing, amending or replacing the will of the parties by a corresponding statement. Importantly, according to the court, experts do not decide what is lawful between the parties, but merely create the basis for such a decision or dispute settlement by the parties themselves.

Further, in case of doubt as to whether the parties have concluded an arbitration agreement or agreed on expert determi­nation, the interpretation takes into account not only the terms used by the parties, but also the intended effects of tasks assigned to the third party.

An arbitration clause in a limited liability company’s articles of association

In a decision rendered in December 2018, [9] the Austrian Supreme Court dealt, inter alia, with the question of whether an arbitration clause may be subsequently included in the articles of association of an Austrian limited liability company by a majority resolution.

Under Austrian law, it is generally accepted that an arbitration agreement may form part of articles of association. In the present case, however, the arbitration clause was introduced with an amendment to the original statute. While amendments may be based on a majority decision, Austrian arbitration law requires that all parties give their consent to the arbitration agreement. Hence, the question of whether such consent requirement applies in the case of a subsequent inclusion of an arbitration clause is controversial.

The decision of the Supreme Court now clarifies that an arbitration agreement requires the approval of all shareholders to become part of the articles of association of a limited liability company.

The impact of a party’s insolvency on already pending arbitral proceedings

Austrian insolvency law provides that claims against the debtor must be registered in the insolvency proceedings. Should a claim be rejected by the insolvency administrator or any of the other creditors raise objections against a registered claim, its validity must be determined by virtue of a declaratory relief rendered in a specific type of litigation called verification proceedings. While, in general, the insolvency court has exclusive jurisdiction to conduct such verification proceedings, the insolvency law also provides that if the claim asserted in the insolvency proceedings was pending before another court before the opening of the insolvency proceedings, that court shall remain competent to conduct the verification proceedings and determine the validity of the claim.

In November 2018, the Austrian Supreme Court handed down a decision [10] establishing that the same also applies to claims that had become pending in arbitral proceedings prior to the relevant party’s insolvency. The court largely based its decision on the equivalence between arbitral awards and state court judgments. The court emphasised that arbitration agreements are equivalent to forum selection clauses in state court proceedings and that, therefore, there would be no reason not to apply the exception to the insolvency court’s exclusive jurisdiction to arbitration proceedings.

Reasoning of arbitral awards

Austrian arbitration law expressly provides that an arbitral award must state the reasons on which it is based. In September 2016, the Austrian Supreme Court ruled that insufficient reasoning of an arbitral award represents a breach of procedural public policy and renders the award susceptible to challenge. [11]

In August 2018, the Austrian Supreme Court ruled that this does not apply if the reasoning relates to circumstances that the court must examine in fact and law in the set-aside proceedings anyway, without being bound by the arbitral decision. In particular, the court named the validity of the arbitration agreement and the constitution of the arbitral tribunal as examples of such circumstances. [12]

Public policy

In late 2018, the Austrian Supreme Court had to deal with the question of whether the arbitral tribunal’s decision not to take certain evidence constitutes a breach of procedural public policy. [13] The court discussed that the non-taking of evidence in relation to a topic that is also considered relevant by the arbitral tribunal could amount to a violation of procedural public policy if this suggests that the arbitral tribunal had acted arbitrarily.

However, according to the court, it shall not amount to a violation of the procedural public policy if the arbitral tribunal formally justifies the non-taking of evidence or the failure to make a determination on the basis of the legal irrelevance of the evidence concerned.

In a separate decision of August 2018, the Austrian Supreme Court held that the failure to serve an interim arbitral award to a party was in casu not a violation of the Austrian procedural public policy since, due to the non-service, the interim award did not become final and binding and hence was of no relevance in the set-aside proceedings with respect to the final award. [14]

Likewise, the court held that non-transmission of a hearing protocol does in principle not justify annulment of the award on public policy grounds. This would only be conceivable, if at all, if the plaintiff had not received the protocol, although service was requested, and therefore was prevented from contesting the arbitral award.

Decision on costs

In a decision rendered in October 2018,15 the Austrian Supreme Court assessed, inter alia, whether the amount granted in an arbitral tribunal’s decision on costs represents a breach of public policy.

The court found that, in general, an exorbitantly high amount may indeed constitute a breach of public policy and thus justify the setting aside of the award. However, it compared the amount granted by the tribunal with the costs the award debtor had indicated in its own cost submission and established that they were comparable.

Finally, the Austrian Supreme Court confirmed that there is no general principle under Austrian law prescribing that the costs of an arbitration should not be higher than the costs of comparable state court proceedings.

Declaration that a document represents a non-award

Austrian arbitration law expressly provides that a party may request a declaration of the existence or non-existence of an arbitral award, provided that it has a legal interest therein. In a decision rendered in late 2018, [16] the Austrian Supreme Court submitted that the existence of a dispute over this question is sufficient to establish such legal interest. The court also stated that this applies regardless of whether the applicant may raise objections against the document as executory title in potential enforcement proceedings.

Procedure for setting aside arbitral awards

The ACCP provides that appeals against court decisions must be subjected to a preliminary examination in which the respective court of appeal examines whether the motion is based on any of the statutory grounds for appeal and whether it was filed within the applicable time limit. If the appeal does not meet these conditions, the court must reject it. In August 2018, the Austrian Supreme Court confirmed that the above provision also applies by analogy to applications to set aside an arbitral award. [17]

Investment arbitration

As explained above, Austria has entered into more than 60 bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Four of these agreements, the ones with Bolivia, Cape Verde, India and South Africa, have been terminated. They will, however, continue to apply (until 2023, 2027 and 2034 respectively) to investments made prior to their termination. Most recently, Austria signed a new BIT with Kyrgyzstan, which, however, has not yet entered into force.

Generally, the Lisbon Treaty transferred the competence to conclude investment treaties with third countries from the individual member states to the EU. With respect to such ‘extra-EU BITs’ that the member states have concluded before the Lisbon Treaty, EU Regulation No. 1219/2012 stipulates that they shall remain effective until they are replaced with new EU investment agreements. The regulation also sets out the conditions under which member states may negotiate amendments to such extra-EU BITs or even conclude new ones.

With respect to BITs concluded between EU member states, ie, ‘intra-EU BITs’, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued a preliminary ruling on investor-state dispute settlement provisions in intra-EU BITs and their compatibility with EU law. In its Achmea decision of 6 March 2018, the CJEU declared the investor-state arbitration clause in a BIT between the Netherlands and Slovakia to be incompatible with EU law on the basis of its ‘adverse effect on the autonomy of EU law’. As a result of the CJEU judgment, Austria and 21 other EU member states declared to terminate all ‘intra-EU BITs’ by 6 December 2019.

Despite the large number of Austrian BITs, so far there has only been one investment treaty claim brought against the Republic of Austria. [18] In this case, the holding company BV Belegging-Maatschappij (Far East) brought an ICSID claim over €200 million under the 2002 Austria–Malta BIT. Far East, which owns 99 per cent of Vienna-based private bank Meinl Bank, sought redress for damages allegedly caused through investigations and state court proceedings targeting the bank itself, as well as some of its executives. Julius Meinl V, chairman of the supervisory board of the bank, was subjected to criminal investigations in 2007. He had been accused of having caused considerable harm to investors by employing a stock buy-back scheme for manipulating the prices of a real estate investment fund. Far East accused Austrian state authorities of having appointed biased experts, conducting illegal house searches and improper surveillance, and thus having breached Meinl Bank’s due process rights. Further, Far East alleged that the Republic of Austria had impaired its investment by arbitrary and discriminatory means and failed to provide full protection to its investment, committed direct as well as indirect expropriation by progressively dismantling the bank’s operations and furthermore failed to attempt a settlement in good faith. [19] The claim was rejected by the ICSID tribunal in 2017 on the basis that it lacked jurisdiction to hear and decide the dispute.

Austrian investors, however, have made more frequent use of Austria’s BITs with other countries. Currently, nine investment arbitration proceedings involving Austrian investors are pending before investment tribunals, namely:

  • LSG Building Solutions and others v Romania, under the Energy Charter Treaty, ICSID Case No. ARB/18/19;
  • Erste Group Bank AG and others v Republic of Croatia, under the Austria–Croatia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/17/49;
  • Addiko Bank AG and Addiko Bank d.d. v Republic of Croatia, under the Austria–Croatia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/17/37;
  • Addiko Bank AG v Montenegro, under the Austria–Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 2001 BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/17/35;
  • Raiffeisen Bank International AG and Raiffeisenbank Austria d.d. v Republic of Croatia, under the Austria–Croatia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/17/34;
  • UniCredit Bank Austria AG and Zagrebacka Banka d.d. v Republic of Croatia, under the Austria–Croatia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/16/31;
  • Strabag SE v Libya, under the Austria–Libya BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB(AF)/15/1;
  • Casinos Austria International GmbH and Casinos Austria Aktiengesellschaft v Argentine Republic, under the Argentina–Austria BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/14/32; and
  • EVN AG v Republic of Bulgaria, under the Austria–Bulgaria BIT and The Energy Charter Treaty, ICSID Case No. ARB/13/17.

In addition, 11 proceedings initiated by Austrian investors have already been concluded, namely:

  • ESPF Beteiligungs GmbH, ESPF Nr 2 Austria Beteiligungs GmbH, and InfraClass Energie 5 GmbH & Co KG v Italian Republic, under the Energy Charter Treaty, ICSID Case No. ARB/16/5;
  • Kunsttrans Holding GmbH and Kunsttrans d.o.o. Beograd v Republic of Serbia, under the Austria–Serbia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/16/10;
  • Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH in Liqu. v Republic of Turkey, under the Austria–Turkey BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/15/26;
  • Georg Gavrilovic and Gavrilovic d.o.o. v Republic of Croatia, under the Austria–Croatia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/12/39;
  • Club Hotel Loutraki SA and Casinos Austria International Holding GMBH v Republic of Serbia, under the Austria–Serbia BIT and the Greece–Serbia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/11/4;
  • European American Investment Bank AG (EURAM) v Slovak Republic, under the Austria–Slovakia BIT, PCA Case No. 2010–17;
  • EVN AG v The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, under The Energy Charter Treaty and the Austria–Macedonia BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/09/10;
  • Mohammad Ammar Al-Bahloul v The Republic of Tajikistan, under The Energy Charter Treaty, Arbitration Institute of the SCC, Case No. V (064/2008);
  • Austrian Airlines v The Slovak Republic, under the Austria–Slovakia BIT, UNCITRAL Ad Hoc Arbitration;
  • Adria Beteiligungs GmbH v The Republic of Croatia, under the Austria–Croatia BIT, UNCITRAL;
  • Alpha Projektholding GmbH v Ukraine, under the Austria–Ukraine BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/07/16;
  • ALAS International Baustoffproduktions AG v Bosnia and Herzegovina, under the Austria–Bosnia and Herzegovina BIT, ICSID Case No. ARB/07/11; and
  • Erste Bank Der Oesterreichischen Sparkassen AG v Republic of India, under the Austria–India BIT, UNCITRAL Ad Hoc Arbitration.

Conclusion

Austria is a very arbitration-friendly jurisdiction with a highly efficient law on civil procedure, modern arbitration provisions, sophisticated case law and an arbitration centre with excellent reputation (the Vienna International Arbitral Centre) that introduced up-to-date rules in 2018. State courts have traditionally always been very reluctant to intervene in arbitral proceedings, and now, owing to the latest amendments providing for the sole and direct competence of the Supreme Court, arbitration-related matters lie almost exclusively in the hands of some of the jurisdiction’s best judges. The expertise and experience of Austrian arbitration practitioners range from commercial arbitration through investment protection to the particularities of dispute resolution in practically any specific economic sector. Certainly, not only the Austrian arbitration experts, but also Austria’s arbitration-friendly arbitration law together with the recently revised version of the Vienna Rules will continue to attract parties to choose Austria as their arbitral seat.


Notes

[1] cf. section 1.16. of the Austrian Enforcement Act, BGBl. I Nr. 69/20014.

[2] One minor reform was that of 1983 updating the form requirements for arbitration agreements and incorporation of one provision concerning the challenge of an award on the grounds of the violation of public policy.

[3] Section 577(2) ACCP enumerates the following provisions: section 578 (court intervention only in matters governed by the chapter on arbitration); section 580 (receipt of written communication); section 583 (form of arbitration agreement); section 584 (arbitration agreement and action before court); section 585 (arbitration agreement and interim measure by court); section 593(3) to (6) (power of state courts to enforce interim or protective measures rendered by an arbitral tribunal); section 602 (judicial assistance in the taking of evidence); section 612 (declaration of existence or non-existence of an arbitral award); and section 614 (recognition and declaration of enforceability of foreign arbitral awards).

[4] Austrian Supreme Court, 16 December 2013, 6 Ob 43/13m.

[5] However, the mere fact that a shareholder sits on the board of directors does not automatically mean that his or her influence is significant: see Austrian Supreme Court, 25 August 2014, 8 Ob 72/14t.

[6] Special time limits exist with regard to the grounds for the setting aside of an award based on criminal actions.

[7] Where an arbitral award on the same subject matter has been finally set aside twice and if a further arbitral award regarding that subject matter is to be set aside, the court shall, upon request of a party, concurrently declare the arbitration agreement to be invalid with respect to that subject matter.

[8] Austrian Supreme Court, 30 November 2018, 18 OCg 5/18m.

[9] Austrian Supreme Court, 21 December 2018, 6 Ob 104/17p.

[10] Austrian Supreme Court, 30 November 2019, 18 ONc 2/18s.

[11] Austrian Supreme Court, 28 September 2016, 18 OCg 3/16.i

[12] Austrian Supreme Court, 21 August 2018, 18 OCg 1/18y.

[13] Austrian Supreme Court, 9 October 2018, 18 OCg 2/18w.

[14] Austrian Supreme Court, 21 August 2018, 18 OCg 1/18y.

[15] Austrian Supreme Court, 9 October 2018, 18 OCg 2/18w.

[16] Austrian Supreme Court, 30 November 2018, 18 OCg 5/18m.

[17] Austrian Supreme Court, 21 August 2018, 18 OCg 1/18y.

[18] BV Belegging-Maatschappij ‘Far East’ v Republic of Austria, ICSID Case No. ARB/15/32.

[19] This summary is based on an article by Lacey Yong published on Global Arbitration Review’s website: https://globalarbitrationreview.com/news/article/34032/austria-hit-first-icsid-claim.