Southeast Europe gains a new centre for international arbitration

Written on 18 Jan 2017

In November 2016, a new independent arbitration centre was launched in Romania by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bucharest: the Bucharest International Arbitration Court (BIAC) will focus on business and commercial disputes in Romanian and English, appealing particularly to foreign investors and multinationals with a presence in Romania. It is part of a growing trend of regional and sector-focussed centres of arbitration, providing alternatives to the more established institutions.

A new go-to institution for the region?

BIAC’s stated objective is to ensure that arbitration services are provided in a fair, transparent and expeditious manner, and of a quality comparable to well-known international arbitration institutions. It is aiming to become the leading international arbitration centre in Southeast Europe. However, one of BIAC’s main challenges will be to attract parties with large disputes that are more traditionally referred to well-established arbitration centres, such as the LCIA or the ICC.

BIAC joins a growing roster of international arbitration institutions hoping to become ‘go-to’ institutions for particular geographical or market areas.  Recent entrants include the Georgian International Arbitration Centre (GIAC), which at the time of writing is just about to celebrate once again its annual ‘Arbitration Days’ in Tbilisi, and P.R.I.M.E. Finance created in 2012 in The Hague to specialise in complex financial disputes, which resolved a US$1.7 billion credit derivatives dispute in just eight days under ISDA expedited procedural rules in 2015.

Rules and composition of the BIAC

BIAC will have an initial closed list of almost 60 Romania-based and foreign arbitrators, all with strong reputations and significant professional experience. The arbitrators specialise in niche areas such as FIDIC/construction law, international commercial and corporate law, intellectual property rights, banking, corporate and project finance and VC/PE investments. Each arbitrator will be appointed for an initial three-year period, with subsequent re-appointments for an additional three-year period subject to the majority affirmative vote of BIAC’s Governing Board, with no limitation on the number of three-year mandates.

BIAC’s rules of arbitration are based on a combination of “best practices” arising from various international arbitration rules, such as UNCITRAL, the LCIA, the ICC, the AAA/ICDR. They incorporate the International Bar Association’s Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Commercial Arbitration and endorse the International Bar Association’s Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Commercial Arbitration.

Notably, the rules of arbitration will also ensure that arbitration awards will generally be rendered within six months from the commencement of an arbitration procedure. However, the rules provide that a tribunal may submit a “reasoned request” to the Governing Board, which may extend the time limit for the award up to a maximum of three months.

Another striking feature of BIAC is the adoption of the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge: an initiative committed to improving the profile and representation of women in arbitration. To achieve this, the centre will take proactive steps to, amongst other things, collate gender statistics for appointments and encourage women to pursue arbitrator appointments and enhance their profiles.

How is this being viewed?

The progress of the new centre will be closely followed by English practitioners with a focus on CEE disputes.  International Arbitration specialist Zannis Mavrogordato of 20 Essex Street, who has lived and worked in Bucharest and focuses on CEE-related disputes, is supportive of the new centre.  He commented that BIAC is “a welcome new entrant“.  If BIAC is successful, it could encourage others looking to establish their own regional centres for international disputes.