Slovakia: International Arbitration Comparative Guide

Last Updated: 18 October 2019
Article by Michal Lučivjanský
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1 Legal framework

1.1 What is the relevant legislation on arbitration in your jurisdiction? Are there any significant limitations on the scope of the statutory regime – for example, does it govern oral arbitration agreements?

The relevant legislation on arbitration in Slovakia is as follows:

  • Act 244/2002 Coll, on arbitration, as amended (the ‘Arbitration Act');
  • Act 335/2004 Coll, on consumer arbitration proceedings, as amended (the ‘Consumer Arbitration Act');
  • Act 160/2015 Coll, the Civil Proceedings Code for Adversarial Proceedings, as amended; and
  • Act 233/1995 Coll, on court bailiffs and enforcement of judgments, as amended (the ‘Code of Civil Enforcement of Judgments').

The Arbitration Act is the primary law on arbitration in Slovakia. The Arbitration Act governs:

  • the resolution of disputes arising out of domestic and international commercial and civil legal relationships where the place of arbitration is Slovakia; and
  • the recognition and enforcement of domestic and foreign arbitral awards in Slovakia.

However, disputes such as the following cannot be resolved by arbitration:

  • disputes regarding the creation, change or termination of ownership rights and other rights in rem in respect of real property;
  • disputes regarding personal status;
  • disputes regarding compulsory enforcement of decisions; and
  • disputes arising in the course of insolvency proceedings and restructuring proceedings.

Also, disputes between a supplier and a consumer arising out of or in connection with a consumer contract, which can be resolved by consumer arbitration, are not arbitrable under the Arbitration Act, but only under Consumer Arbitration Act. It is unclear whether disputes concerning labour law are arbitrable.

Further, the Arbitration Act stipulates that in order to be valid, an arbitration agreement shall be in writing - whether in the form of a separate agreement or an arbitration clause in a contract.

1.2 Does this legislation differentiate between domestic arbitration and international arbitration? If so, how is each defined?

No, the Arbitration Act does not distinguish between domestic arbitration and international arbitration. The Arbitration Act only defines a ‘foreign arbitral award' as an award made in the territory of a country other than Slovakia which contains a ruling on the merits of the respective case.

1.3 Is the arbitration legislation in your jurisdiction based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration?

Yes, the major amendment to the Arbitration Act which became effective in 2015 transposed the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration into Slovakian law. However, the Arbitration Act does not reflect all provisions of the UNCITRAL Model Law.

1.4 Are all provisions of the legislation in your jurisdiction mandatory?

No, in general, the arbitration legislation is subject to the agreement of the parties. However, the Arbitration Act includes certain mandatory provisions, such as the principal conditions of arbitration (eg, arbitrability of the dispute and personal requirements for arbitrators).

1.5 Are there any current plans to amend the arbitration legislation in your jurisdiction?

Currently there are no plans to amend the arbitration legislation in Slovakia.

1.6 Is your jurisdiction a signatory to the New York Convention? If so, have any reservations been made?

Slovakia has been a signatory to the New York Convention since 1 January 1993 (as a legal successor to Czechoslovakia). No reservations were made.

1.7 Is your jurisdiction a signatory to any other treaties relevant to arbitration?

Slovakia is a signatory to the following main treaties relevant to arbitration:

  • the Energy Charter Treaty, 1998;
  • the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States, 1994;
  • the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, 1964;
  • the Protocol on Arbitration Clauses, 1931; and
  • the Convention on the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1931.

2 Arbitrability and restrictions on arbitration

2.1 How is it determined whether a dispute is arbitrable in your jurisdiction?

All disputes concerning legal relationships that are eligible for a settlement agreement, including disputes on the existence of a legal relationship or legal title, can be resolved through arbitration. See also question 1 regarding disputes which are not arbitrable.

2.2 Are there any restrictions on the choice of seat of arbitration for certain disputes?

There are no restrictions on the choice of seat of arbitration. According to the Arbitration Act, if the seat of arbitration has not yet been determined, the relevant courts of Slovakia shall have the power to decide on matters such as the choice of arbitrators and termination of the functions of the arbitrator under the Arbitration Act, if at least one party to the arbitration has its registered office, place of business or permanent residence in the territory of Slovakia.

3 Arbitration agreement

3.1 What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement in your jurisdiction?

An arbitration agreement can take the form of a separate agreement or an arbitration clause in a contract. To be valid, an arbitration agreement must be in writing. The Arbitration Act provides that an arbitration agreement will be deemed to be in written form when the arbitration agreement:

  • is contained in an exchange of written communications between the parties; or
  • was concluded by electronic means that are capable of recording the substance of such legal act and the identities of the parties thereto.

Furthermore, a reference in a contract or the parties' written communications to any document containing an arbitration clause (eg, general terms and conditions) constitutes an arbitration agreement in writing, provided that the reference is such as to make that clause, in the intention of the parties, part of that contract.

An arbitration agreement in writing can be substituted by a statement of the parties accepting the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal, recorded in minutes drawn up by the arbitrator.

3.2 Are there any provisions of legislation or any other legal sources in your jurisdiction concerning the separability of arbitration agreements?

Pursuant to the Arbitration Act, if an arbitration clause is part of an otherwise invalid contract, the arbitration clause shall be invalid only if the grounds for invalidity also affect the arbitration clause. Furthermore, if the parties withdraw from an agreement, such withdrawal shall not apply to the arbitration clause included in the agreement, unless otherwise agreed by the parties.

3.3 Are there provisions on the seat and/or language of the arbitration if there is no agreement between the parties?

The parties are free to agree on the place of arbitration. Failing such agreement, the place of arbitration shall be determined by the arbitral tribunal, having regard to the circumstances of the case, including the interests of the parties. Any arbitral proceedings conducted at a permanent court of arbitration shall be subject to the provisions of the rules of procedure of that permanent court of arbitration regulating the place of arbitration.

If the parties fail to agree on the language to be used in the arbitral proceedings, this shall be determined by the arbitral tribunal. Its determination shall apply to any written statement by a party, any hearings and any awards, decisions or other communications by the arbitral tribunal, unless this agreement or a decision of the arbitral tribunal states otherwise. Further, the arbitral tribunal may order that any documentary evidence be accompanied by a translation into the language or languages determined by the arbitral tribunal.

4 Objections to jurisdiction

4.1 When must a party raise an objection to the jurisdiction of the tribunal and how can this objection be raised?

The arbitral tribunal may rule on its own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence or validity of the arbitration agreement. A party to the arbitral proceedings that wants to challenge the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal due to the non-existence or invalidity of the arbitration agreement may do so within the arbitral proceedings upon or before the first act in the proceedings. An objection that the arbitration agreement is invalid (as the matter falls outside the arbitral proceedings) or that the matter falls under the Consumer Arbitration Act must be made before the end of oral hearings or, in case of written proceedings, before the adoption of the arbitral award. An objection that the issue in question falls outside the arbitral proceedings must be made upon the relevant party becoming aware of it.

4.2 Can a tribunal rule on its own jurisdiction?

Yes, the arbitral tribunal can rule on its own jurisdiction, including objections to the validity or existence of the arbitration agreement.

4.3 Can a party apply to the courts of the seat for a ruling on the jurisdiction of the tribunal? In what circumstances?

Yes. If the arbitral tribunal rules by arbitral order that it has jurisdiction, the party which raised the objection may, within 30 days of receiving notice of that ruling, request the court to decide on the objection. No remedy is admissible against the court's decision on the objection. While the objection is pending, the arbitral tribunal may continue the arbitral proceedings and make an award.

5 The parties

5.1 Are there any restrictions on who can be a party to an arbitration agreement?

No. The parties to an arbitration agreement can be natural persons, legal persons or states.

5.2 Are the parties under any duties in relation to the arbitration?

Yes, the Arbitration Act contains several provisions regarding the default of a party to the arbitration (eg, if the statement of claim does not satisfy the requirements of the Arbitration Act or is not supplemented within the stipulated timeframe, the arbitral tribunal shall terminate the proceedings).

5.3 Are there any provisions of law which deal with multi-party disputes?

No, the Arbitration Act does not contain provisions dealing with multi-party disputes.

6 Applicable law issues

6.1 How is the law of the arbitration agreement determined in your jurisdiction?

Pursuant to the Arbitration Act, an explicit agreement by the parties in an arbitration agreement to have the arbitration agreement governed by the laws of another country shall not invalidate that agreement. The law chosen shall also determine whether the arbitration agreement is valid. However, arbitrability shall always be governed by the provisions of the Arbitration Act.

6.2 Will the tribunal uphold a party agreement as to the substantive law of the dispute? Where the substantive law is unclear, how will the tribunal determine what it should be?

The law chosen shall also determine whether the arbitration agreement is valid. However, arbitrability shall always be governed by the provisions of the Arbitration Act.

In disputes arising from a legal relationship with an international element (commercial or civil), the arbitral tribunal shall decide in accordance with the rules of law agreed by the parties. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, each agreement on the governing law shall be deemed to be an agreement on the substantive law of a country, to the exclusion of its conflict of laws rules. If the parties fail to agree on the governing law, the arbitral tribunal shall decide the dispute in accordance with the rules of law determined by the conflict of laws rules that it considers appropriate.

The arbitral tribunal shall decide disputes arising from a domestic legal relationship in accordance with the rules of law agreed by the parties, to the extent acceptable by the conflict of laws rules applicable in Slovakia. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, each agreement on the governing law shall be deemed to be an agreement on the substantive law of a country, to the exclusion of its conflict of laws rules. If the parties fail to agree on the governing law, the tribunal shall decide the dispute in accordance with the legal system chosen by the conflict of laws rules applicable in Slovakia.

7 Consolidation and third parties

7.1 Does the law in your jurisdiction permit consolidation of separate arbitrations into a single arbitration proceeding? Are there any conditions which apply to consolidation?

The Arbitration Act includes no provisions on the consolidation of separate arbitration into a single arbitration proceeding. However, this is regulated by the Civil Proceedings Code for Adversarial Proceedings, which also applies to the Arbitration Act. The arbitral tribunal may join two or more arbitral proceedings started before the same tribunal and involving the same parties or claims arising from the same transaction or event.

7.2 Does the law in your jurisdiction permit the joinder of additional parties to an arbitration which has already commenced?

The Arbitration Act includes no provisions on joinder of additional parties to an arbitration which has already been commenced. However, this is regulated by the Civil Proceedings Code for Adversarial Proceedings, which also applies to the Arbitration Act and whose provisions are also followed in practice in the case of arbitration proceedings. A third party may intervene upon the request of one of the parties or of the tribunal, and with the consent of the tribunal.

7.3 Does an arbitration agreement bind assignees or other third parties?

The arbitration agreement is applicable to the legal successors of the parties, unless the parties have agreed otherwise in the arbitration agreement. It is also applicable in the case of an assignment of rights or obligations or any other substitution of a creditor or a debtor in a relationship falling under the arbitration agreement.

8 The tribunal

8.1 How is the tribunal appointed?

The parties are free to agree on the arbitrators or on the procedure for their appointment.

If the parties do not agree on the arbitrators or the procedure for their appointment:

  • in an arbitration with three arbitrators, each party shall appoint one arbitrator and the two arbitrators thus appointed shall appoint the third arbitrator. If a party fails to appoint the arbitrator within 15 days of receipt of a request to do so from the other party, or if the two arbitrators fail to agree on the third arbitrator within 30 days of their appointment, the appointment shall be made, upon the request of a party, by the court or the appointing authority,
  • in an arbitration with more than three arbitrators, the procedure described above shall apply accordingly; and
  • in an arbitration with a sole arbitrator, the arbitrator shall be appointed, upon the request of a party, by the court or the appointing authority.

8.2 Are there any requirements as to the number or qualification of arbitrators in your jurisdiction?

The arbitral tribunal may comprise either a sole arbitrator or several arbitrators. The parties may agree on the number of arbitrators, provided that this is an odd number. If the parties do not agree on the number of arbitrators, the tribunal shall comprise three arbitrators.

Any natural person agreed by the parties can serve as an arbitrator if he or she is of legal age, has full legal capacity and has no prior criminal convictions. Specific acts may provide for exceptions - for instance, certain professions acting on behalf of a state. A notary public may also act as an arbitrator.

8.3 Can an arbitrator be challenged in your jurisdiction? If so, on what basis? Are there any restrictions on the challenge of an arbitrator?

Yes. A person appointed as an arbitrator must, without undue delay, inform the parties of any facts that might disqualify him or her from hearing and deciding the matter if, having regard to his or her relationship to the merits or to the parties, there may be doubts as to his or her impartiality.

A party may challenge its appointed arbitrator, or an arbitrator in whose appointment it has participated, only for reasons of which it becomes aware after the appointment has been made. The parties are free to agree on a procedure for challenging arbitrators either in the arbitration agreement or later, but no later than the date of commencement of the arbitration. The parties may not agree to exclude this right. Challenges in arbitration held at the permanent court of arbitration may be dealt with in accordance with its rules; however, these may not exclude the right of a party to ask a court to decide on an unsuccessful challenge.

If the parties have not agreed on a procedure for challenging the arbitrators, a party intending to challenge an arbitrator must send written notice of the grounds for the challenge to the arbitral tribunal within 15 days of the date on which the party becomes aware of the grounds for the challenge or the failure to satisfy conditions under the Arbitration Act. If the challenged arbitrator does not resign or if the other party does not agree with the challenge, it shall be decided by the arbitral tribunal upon the request of a party and within 60 days of its delivery.

If the challenge is unsuccessful or is not decided within the timeframe set out in the Arbitration Act, the challenging party may, within 30 days of delivery of the decision dismissing the challenge or of the timeframe for deciding on the challenge elapsing, request a court to decide on the challenge. The court's decision dismissing the challenge is not subject to appeal. While the request is pending, the arbitral tribunal may continue the arbitral proceedings and render an award.

8.4 If a challenge is successful, how is the arbitrator replaced?

If the mandate of an arbitrator terminates, a substitute arbitrator shall be appointed. The parties are free to agree on the procedure for appointing a substitute arbitrator. Failing such agreement, the provisions of the Arbitration Act shall apply accordingly.

8.5 What duties are imposed on arbitrators? Are these all imposed by legislation?

Various duties are imposed on arbitrators in the course of the arbitration proceedings. However, the provisions of the Arbitration Act in this regard are not comprehensive: some duties may be also imposed by permanent court rules where issues are not specifically addressed in the Arbitration Act.

8.6 What powers does an arbitrator have in relation to: (a) procedure, including evidence; (b) interim relief; (c) parties which do not comply with its orders; (d) issuing partial final awards; (e) the remedies it can grant in a final award and (f) interest?

(a) Procedure, including evidence?

The arbitral tribunal shall examine only the evidence presented by the parties. The arbitral tribunal shall consider the selection and method of taking evidence based on its potential to provide clarification on the dispute. If the arbitral tribunal cannot secure the taking of evidence on its own, it may request a court to do so.

(b) Interim relief?

Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the arbitral tribunal may, upon the motion of a party, grant interim measures if:

  • this is necessary to temporarily regulate the relationship between the parties;
  • there is a risk that enforcement of an arbitral award might be prejudiced; or
  • there is a risk that in the future evidence might no longer be available or might be available only under complicated circumstances.

If the parties have not agreed otherwise, the permanent court of arbitration may order interim measures even before the appointment of an arbitrator or atbitrators.

(c) Parties which do not comply with its orders?

If a party which has been duly informed of the time and place of the arbitral proceedings fails to appear at a hearing or to produce documentary evidence, the arbitral tribunal may continue the proceedings and make the award based on the evidence before it.

(d) Issuing partial final awards?

The arbitral tribunal may issue a partial award on jurisdiction or on the substance of the claim, but when doing so, the tribunal must state in the operative part of the award that it is a partial award.

(e) The remedies it can grant in a final award?

The parties may agree to have the arbitral award reviewed by other arbitrators, but only if they have expressly agreed to this in the arbitration agreement.

(f) Interest?

There is no specific provision in the Arbitration Act in this regard and thus substantive law applicable to the claim will apply in relation to interest.

8.7 How may a tribunal seated in your jurisdiction proceed if a party does not participate in the arbitration?

If a party which has been duly informed of the time and place of the arbitral proceedings fails to appear at a hearing or to produce documentary evidence, the arbitral tribunal may continue the proceedings and make the award based on the evidence before it.

8.8 Are arbitrators immune from liability?

The liability of arbitrators is not explicitly regulated. This matter is governed by the general principles of liability under Slovak law; therefore, arbitrators can be liable for any damage caused in exercising their function as arbitrator.

9 The role of the court during an arbitration

9.1 Will the court in your jurisdiction stay proceedings and refer parties to arbitration if there is an arbitration agreement?

A court is required to stay proceedings as soon as it becomes aware of the existence of an arbitration agreement.

If a dispute is already being dealt with in court proceedings, the parties to such proceedings may agree, in or out of court, to have the dispute resolved through arbitration. This agreement, once delivered to the court, shall constitute both withdrawal of the application and consent of the respondent to the withdrawal.

9.2 Does the court in your jurisdiction have any powers in relation to an arbitration seated in your jurisdiction and/or seated outside your jurisdiction? What are these powers? Under what conditions are these powers exercised?

The Arbitration Act specifies certain circumstances in which the court has the power to intervene in arbitral proceedings. In particular, the court has jurisdiction to support the arbitral process by appointing arbitrators, granting interim measures, assisting with the gathering of evidence and hearing applications relating to challenging and enforcing awards.

9.3 Can the parties exclude the court's powers by agreement?

The parties can exclude the jurisdiction of the courts only through an express provision to this effect in the arbitration agreement.

10 Costs

10.1 How will the tribunal approach the issue of costs?

The arbitral tribunal may decide on the costs of the arbitration in a separate award, after it has rendered the final award.

Unless otherwise determined by the arbitral tribunal, the costs of the arbitral proceedings shall include (without limitation):

  • disbursements of the parties and their legal representatives;
  • costs of taking evidence;
  • fees of the arbitral proceedings;
  • remuneration paid to the arbitral tribunal and its disbursements;
  • remuneration paid to experts;
  • remuneration paid to interpreters; and
  • remuneration paid to representatives.

10.2 Are there any restrictions on what the parties can agree in terms of costs in an arbitration seated in your jurisdiction?

There are no restrictions on what the parties may agree in terms of costs and their recovery.

11 Funding

11.1 Is third-party funding permitted for arbitrations seated in your jurisdiction?

Third-party funding is not prohibited for arbitration seated in Slovakia.

12 Award

12.1 What procedural and substantive requirements must be met by an award?

The arbitral tribunal shall issue its award either by deciding on the merits or based on a settlement reached by the parties. The arbitral tribunal may decide on costs in a separate award, after it has rendered the final award.

The award must be made in writing. The Arbitration Act provides that the award must state the following:

  • identification of the arbitral tribunal;
  • names and surnames of the arbitrators;
  • identification of the parties and their representatives, by their names and surnames or business names (as appropriate), or by their designations;
  • the place of arbitration;
  • the date of the award;
  • the decision;
  • the reasons on which the decision is based, unless the parties have agreed that no reasons are to be given or the award is an award on agreed terms; and
  • advice that a petition to set aside the award can be filed with a court.

12.2 Must the award be produced within a certain timeframe?

The Arbitration Act does not specify a timeframe within which the award must be produced.

13 Enforcement of awards

13.1 Are awards enforced in your jurisdiction? Under what procedure?

Pursuant to the Arbitration Act, upon the expiry of the timeframe for performance in Slovakia, a final domestic arbitral award shall be enforceable pursuant to special regulations.

An arbitral award made in the territory of a country other than Slovakia that includes a ruling on the merits shall constitute a foreign arbitral award. Foreign arbitral awards may be recognised and enforced in Slovakia under the terms stipulated by the Arbitration Act.

The enforcement of awards may be governed by the Code of Civil Enforcement of Judgments.

14 Grounds for challenging an award

14.1 What are the grounds on which an award can be challenged, appealed or otherwise set aside in your jurisdiction?

The reasons are set out in the Arbitration Act and follow the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.

14.2 Are there are any time limits and/or other requirements to bring a challenge?

Yes, any challenge must be brought within 60 days of delivery of the award.

14.3 Are parties permitted to exclude any rights of challenge or appeal?

No.

15 Confidentiality

15.1 Is arbitration seated in your jurisdiction confidential? Is a duty of confidentiality found in the arbitration legislation?

Pursuant to the Arbitration Act, an arbitrator must keep confidential all facts of which he or she becomes aware during or in connection with the arbitration, even after the end of his or her mandate. The arbitrator may be relieved of this obligation only by the parties. However, court decisions are published and are publicly available online.

15.2 Are there any exceptions to confidentiality?

The confidentiality obligation of the arbitrator under the Arbitration Act does not apply to the disclosure of information to law enforcement authorities and courts for the purpose of proceedings that relate to the subject matter of the arbitration, the arbitration proceedings or other matters relating to the performance of an arbitrator's function or the activity of the permanent court of arbitration.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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