Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber) of 13 October 2016, Edyta Mikołajczyk v Marie Louise Czarnecka and Stefan Czarnecki, Case C-294/15
On 13th October 2016 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered a preliminary ruling clarifying some aspects of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 (Brussels II bis Regulation).
The Court of Appeal of Warsaw (Sąd Apelacyjny w Warszawie) had to examine a claim lodged by an heir, seeking the annulment of the marriage between her father and his new wife. The Polish court had doubts concerning the application of the Brussels II bis Regulation since the claimant was a third party (not one of the spouses) seeking the recognition of her heir rights. The referring Polish court also had doubts on the possibility to establish its jurisdiction, since the fifth and sixth indents of Article (3)(1)(a) of the Brussels II bis Regulation, invoked by the heir, referred to the habitual residence of the ‘claimant’ understood as one of the spouses.
Concerning the first question, the ECJ found that the object of the action brought by the heir after the death of her father was ’marriage annulment’ and not succession. As regard to the fact that the action was brought by an heir and not by one of the spouses, the ECJ relayed on the wording and, especially, the context and aims of Article 1(1)(a) and noted that the Brussels II bis Regulation did not make distinction on the basis of the identity of the person entitled to bring such an action.
Concerning the last question, the ECJ ruled that, regarding the need to protect the interests of spouses and to ensure a genuine link between the party concerned and the courts seized, the grounds of jurisdiction previewed by Article 3(1)(a) applied only to spouses. Therefore, a third party may not rely on the grounds of jurisdiction set out in those provisions.