09 February 2024

The PCA Vienna Office Celebrates 125 Years of the PCA and Move to the Hofburg Palace

On 24 January 2024, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (“PCA”) hosted an evening conference and reception in Vienna on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the institution and the opening of the new premises of the PCA Vienna Office in the Hofburg Palace.

This year marks 125 years since the First Hague Peace Conference, which resulted in the establishment of the PCA and marked the first step in the development of the modern means of peaceful dispute resolution offered to the international community. The conference of 24 January 2024, on the theme of “125 years of International Dispute Resolution at the Permanent Court of Arbitration”, was the first in a series of PCA events that will commemorate this anniversary throughout the year.

The event also enabled the PCA Vienna Office, established in April 2022, to welcome guests in its new premises in the Hofburg Palace. Last year saw the entry into force on 1 June 2023 of a Host Country Agreement with the Republic of Austria, which facilitates the conduct of PCA proceedings in Austria and updates the framework for the operation of the PCA’s Vienna Office.

The conference began with opening remarks delivered by Dr. Hab. Marcin Czepelak, Secretary-General of the PCA, Dr.in Alma Zadić, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Austria, and Ms. Anna Joubin-Bret, Secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”).

In his welcome address, Secretary-General Czepelak highlighted the PCA’s evolution in its 125-year history, noting that, fulfilling its mandate, the institution moved “from arbitrating inter-State disputes only to providing services in the context of investor-State disputes, commercial disputes, mediation and conciliation cases, and disputes involving international organizations.” Using the words of the PCA’s founding conventions, he emphasized that “in a world that is increasingly fast-paced and sometimes fractured, the PCA continues to stand as a symbol for ‘the maintenance of general peace’.”

Minister Zadić also referred to the PCA’s mission to provide dispute settlement services where settling differences by diplomatic means had failed. The Minister stated that in times when the peaceful co-existence of States is not guaranteed, the PCA symbolises the collective commitment to fostering dialogue and legal frameworks for dispute resolution, a commitment the Republic of Austria was honoured to support by hosting the PCA offices in Vienna.

Ms. Anna Joubin-Bret spoke about the long-standing relationship between the PCA and UNCITRAL. The PCA participates as an observer in UNCITRAL Working Group II on Dispute Settlement and UNCITRAL Working Group III on Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform. It is also a frequent user of UNCITRAL instruments, being the only institution expressly named in the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (with the function of designating appointing authorities) and having acted as registry in hundreds of arbitrations under those Rules.

Following the opening remarks, PCA Senior Legal Counsel Evgeniya Goriatcheva moderated a panel composed of Judge Bruno Simma, Professor Dapo Akande, and Justice Indu Malhotra. In their presentations the panellists provided insights into topics relating to the PCA’s activities in the past, present and future. Judge Simma spoke about the history of the PCA’s engagement with Austria, Professor Akande highlighted some of the current challenges in investment arbitration in the context of armed conflict, and Justice Malhotra addressed the topic of State-State arbitration under investment treaties.

The event was attended by representatives of the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy of the Republic of Austria, members of the Austrian judiciary, other governmental and diplomatic representatives, members of the Austrian arbitration community, and the delegates of UNCITRAL Working Group III.