The Position of Foreign States before National Courts: Chiefly in Continental Europe

By Eleanor Wyllys Allen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE "BELGIAN DOCTRINE" AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

IT was not until 1903 that the Court of Cassation set forth the doctrine which has come to be identified with Belgian and Italian jurisprudence. In the Liège-Limburg Railway case, it approved for the first time the distinction between the competence of national courts over the sovereign and the civil acts of foreign states. This case is also of interest because of the influence it might have been expected to exert upon Dutch jurisprudence, at least in so far as claims arising from civil acts of the Belgian state were concerned. The Dutch courts, however, refused to follow the example set in Belgium, and did not even make this new doctrine an excuse for reciprocal treatment when the occasion arose.1

Liège-Limburg Railway Case

The case of the Liège-Limburg Railway company arose from the following facts: In June, 1866, the Dutch Government, as operator of the state railway system, had made an agreement with the Belgian company above mentioned, that, should the latter participate in the expense of enlarging a certain station in Holland, it would reimburse said company for its share of the outlay, if for any reason the existing arrangement for the joint use of the station by the two lines should be terminated. Some time thereafter, the Dutch state bought out all interest of the Belgian company in the line from the Belgian frontier to the station in question. The Belgian railway company brought suit under the above agreement for its expenses in connection with the alteration of the station. The Civil Tribunal at Brussels on May 22, 1901,2 declared itself competent in virtue of Article 92 of the Constitution, giving the courts exclusive jurisdiction over litigation involving civil rights, and Article 54 of the law of March 25,

____________________
1
See the Hendrika II, Weekblad van het Recht ( 1923), 11088, p. 5:2.
2
Journal des Tribunaux, 1901, col. 1127.

-206-

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