The Romanian Civil Procedure Code (CPC) explicitly regulates institutional arbitration within a discrete chapter named “Institutional Arbitration” (Title VII of Book IV) and includes six articles to that effect (Articles 616 – 621 CPC).
The most representative system of institutional arbitration in Romania is the system of arbitration courts attached to chambers of commerce and industry. The system of chambers of commerce includes the (1) National Chamber of Industry i.e., the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (CCIR); (2) the 41 county chambers of commerce; (3) the Chamber of Commerce of the Municipality of Bucharest; and (4) the bilateral chambers of commerce. The chambers of commerce enjoy autonomy, are non-governmental organizations, apolitical, and without economic purpose.
The CCIR conducts the entire system of commercial arbitration through the Court of International Commercial Arbitration attached to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (CICA), the oldest and most popular arbitration institution in Romania, functioning since 1953.
In Romania, the number of disputes resolved through arbitration is not impressive. For example, for the CICA, there have been 402 registered cases between 2017-2019. CICA reported that most of the newly registered cases were construction arbitrations.
Also, 344 setting aside requests were filed at the national level before the 15 courts of appeal in Romania (this data reflects all arbitrations seated in Romania that have reached the setting aside stage) between 2017-2020. Out of the 344 setting aside requests, approximately 74% were registered before the Bucharest Court of Appeal (Bucharest CA), i.e., 252 requests, which confirms that most of the arbitrations in Romania are seated in Bucharest. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of setting aside requests at both the national level and the Bucharest CA level had a downward trend. In 2020, the number of setting aside requests increased exponentially compared to the number of setting aside requests registered in the previous year: by approximately 74% at the national level, respectively by approximately 109% at the Bucharest CA.
The average length of the setting aside proceedings at the national level was between 6.2 and 9.9 months, according to the data collected for the period between 2017 to 2020 from Romanian courts. The average length had a downward trend, with the shortest average length (6.2 months) being recorded in 2020. At both national and Bucharest CA levels, the year in which the shortest average length was recorded (2020) coincides with the year in which most setting aside requests were filed.
This data is collected and published within the project Removing factors leading to the increase in caseload, identification of regulatory elements and the overload trends (SIPOCA Code/MySMIS 752/129914), co-financed by the European Social Fund, through Operational Program Administrative Capacity 2014-2020, implemented by the Superior Council of Magistracy in cooperation with the General Secretariat of the Romanian Government.
There can be several reasons for the limited number of disputes resolved through arbitration, including the potential lack of trust, perception over the costs, lack of information, etc. For stimulating the resolution of disputes through arbitration, it is important to strengthen the transparency of the statistical data both at the level of arbitral institutions and at the level of Romanian courts – by making such data easily available among arbitration users and practitioners. The effort should be joint and sustained, involving all participants in the arbitral process e.g., lawyers, arbitrators, involvement from academia, state courts, arbitral institutions, etc.
The regular publication by CICA of statistics regarding its caseload and the profile of the cases it administers, as well as regular publication of statistics regarding setting aside proceedings resolved by Romanian courts and of the applications for court assistance and intervention in the arbitral process, would be invaluable. Such statistics could be published by state courts or even included in the yearly reports regarding the state of justice in Romania.
Judicial power support and trust are one of the basic pillars of arbitration. A sustained vote of confidence for arbitration would not only strengthen trust in this alternative dispute resolution mechanism but could also improve overall access to justice.
By Cornel Popa, Partner, and Cornelia Tabirta, Managing Associate, Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii