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English an Official Court Language

From 2018 hearings can be held in English before a special Chamber for Commercial Matters at the Frankfurt/Main District Court.

“The language of the court shall be German” states § 184 of the Courts Constitution Act (GVG). But international trade and business negotiations and contracts are in every language, often in English.

For some time now, efforts have been under way in Germany to bridge the gap. Starting from January 2018, parties may (upon application) have their court cases heard in English before a special Chamber for Commercial Matters at Frankfurt/Main District Court.

The Frankfurt District Court aims to establish itself as an international dispute resolution forum on the eve of Brexit because after Brexit the EU-wide enforcement of British court decisions will become more problematic.

The practical reaction from lawyers and judges is largely positive, though criticism has been voiced in regard to § 184 GVG. However, court hearings can in fact already be held in a foreign language as a translation is not required where all participants have a command of the language concerned (§ 185 par. 2 GVG). This does not affect the Public Session Principle.

It remains to be seen whether the high expectations of the District Court will be fulfilled. In any case, where contracts under German law are concluded in English, Frankfurt will be a good future choice. At least it seems desirable for the legislator to use the chance to be active now and to decide on legal technicalities – in this respect, the Federal Council launched a bill as long ago as 2010.

Source: Press release, Frankfurt District Court Nov. 2nd 2017