The rules governing seizure of a cross-border bank account in the EU follow from the EU Regulation establishing a European Account Preservation Order (EAPO). Such Regulation was created to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters. Under this seizure procedure, a creditor will be able to obtain an EAPO to freeze funds in the bank account of a debtor in another EU country (excluding the United Kingdom and Denmark). Before the Regulation, cross-border account seizure required applications to the courts in each country in which a debtor held a bank account. Since the introduction of the EAPO, this is no longer necessary.
EAPO Procedure Requirements
An EAPO procedure applies only to cases in which the debtor holds his bank account in i) an EU country (except the United Kingdom and Denmark) other than the country of the court issuing the order; or ii) an EU country other than the one in which the debtor is domiciled. An application can be made before, during, or after the main proceedings if the creditor convinces the court that there is a real risk that the later collection of the creditor’s claim against the debtor will be made more difficult (e.g., as result of embezzlement of funds).
To obtain an EAPO, the creditor must submit a standard form application to the same court that will handle the creditor’s claim against the debtor. The creditor should include a description of his claim and supporting evidence. Also, the creditor must identify the debtor’s bank, and if known, the bank account number.
If a creditor files for an EAPO before his claim has been recognized in a court award, additional conditions apply to obtain an EAPO. First, the creditor must provide evidence that his claim is likely to be recognized by the court. Second, the creditor must provide security in order to protect the debtor against misuse of the EAPO by the creditor. The court determines the amount of the security and the manner in which it should be provided (e.g., security deposit or other type of guarantee).
EAPO Procedure Effects
The court will decide on the application within 5-10 days. Once issued, an EAPO will be automatically recognized throughout the EU without further court intervention. Banks are required to give effect to the EAPO without delay and to report to the creditor the amount seized within three business days.
The creditor must also take action after submitting the application: he must file his claim against the debtor within 30 days after submitting his EAPO application or within 14 days of the EAPO’s date of issue (whichever date is later). The bank account of the debtor will be seized up to the amount specified in the EAPO.
The EAPO brings many advantages compared to historically difficult cross-border seizures. The procedure is faster, lower-cost, and much easier for the creditor. The threshold to apply for seizure of an account in another EU country should now be significantly lower than before the Regulation. However, the requirement that the creditor provide security for the duration of the account seizure can become prohibitively burdensome.