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Madrid is thriving. In recent years, Spain's largest city has become a melting pot of nationalities and cultures and attracted significant foreign investment along the way. Madrid is also thriving in the arbitration space, capturing a growing share of cross-border arbitration cases. In this article we cover four key factors that have contributed to Madrid’s rise as an arbitration hub:

The factors above reflect significant outbound investments from the main corporate players in the Spanish economy, and substantial investment from overseas companies in Spain. A series of initiatives focused on Madrid as an arbitration hub, including the 2026 International Council for Commercial Arbitration Congress, are on the horizon which will present additional opportunities to strengthen Madrid’s growing position as a global centre for high-end dispute resolution.

Spanish industry support for arbitration

Arbitration has become the preferred method of dispute resolution for key Spanish corporates, including in the renewables, infrastructure and construction sectors. As an illustration, the statistics published by the ICC in 2020 show that:[1] 

  • Among arbitration parties originating from North and West Europe, Spain led with 125 registered parties (up from 87 in 2019).
  • Spain was the third most represented nationality among parties in all ICC cases, after the US and Brazil.
  • Spanish was the third most used language in awards approved by the ICC.

Launching MIAC – A truly international arbitration body

Historically, multiple arbitration institutions have been active in Spain and in the Madrid region, in particular. These institutions have typically originated from chambers of commerce or bar associations and provided alternative dispute resolution services in their respective areas.

In 2020, the main arbitration institutions in Madrid (the Madrid Court of Arbitration, the Civil and Commercial Court of Arbitration and the Spanish Court of Arbitration) merged to set up the MIAC, with the involvement of the Madrid Bar Association as a strategic partner. While the four participating entities still function as separate bodies for domestic cases, they refer all international arbitrations initiated under arbitration agreements entered into after 1 January 2020 to MIAC.

Statistics published by MIAC in 2022 demonstrate that more than half of the parties litigating before MIAC were based outside of Spain.[2]

MIAC has experienced steady growth in the number of cases it handles since it began operations in 2020. Two thirds of its cases were referred by MIAC’s founding institutions and one third were initiated under an arbitration agreement identifying MIAC as the administrating institution.

More recently, MIAC has updated its arbitration rules following a process led by MIAC’s Commission of Best Practices, which is presided over by veteran practitioner Alexis Mourre (a former ICC President). Responding to growing calls for efficiency, the new rules strive to streamline arbitrations in accordance with user needs. The new rules entered into force on 1 January 2024 and introduced the following primary changes:

  • A highly expedited procedure requiring substantive pleadings to be submitted within default deadlines while the tribunal is being constituted, with the aim that all substantive submissions are filed by the time the tribunal is constituted.
  • A framework for emergency arbitration decisions to be issued either in the form of an award or a procedural order.
  • An opt-in appeals mechanism.
  • Updated tribunal fees which can be reduced or increased by MIAC up to 30%.

A dynamic arbitration community

The significant growth of Spain’s arbitration community is reflected in the +1,400-strong membership of CEIA, which spans 43 nationalities and 31 international chapters. Since 2006, CEIA has hosted an annual International Arbitration Congress with the 28th edition taking place from 9 June 2024 in Madrid. This is the main forum for the entire Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American arbitration community.

CEIA is well-recognised in the market for its thought leadership and contributions to soft law. In addition to hosting a series of flagship events, CEIA publishes Iurgium (formerly the Spanish Arbitration Review), a quarterly publication with a wide range of authors, nationalities and industries.

CEIA members have further contributed to the following best practice codes and guidelines:

  • 2019 Code of Best Practice in Arbitration which addresses duties and best practice for arbitral institutions, arbitrators, arbitral proceedings, counsel and experts and is translated into five languages.
  • Code of Good Practice for Mediation which addresses best practice for mediators, mediation institutions and lawyers representing parties in mediation and is translated into four languages.
  • Brochure and Newsletter on Dispute Boards, which publishes news and information on the functioning of dispute boards in multi-tier arbitration clauses.

Along with the growth of Spanish arbitration associations such as CEIA, the health of Spain’s arbitration community is showcased by the increasing number of arbitrators with Spanish nationality being appointed in high profile international arbitrations. Most recent statistics from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) revealed that Spanish was the sixth most appointed nationality of arbitrators (151 arbitrators appointed in 2023).

Arbitration-friendly legal framework and courts

The current Spanish arbitration law has been in force since 2003, closely follows the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration and is in line with modern arbitration standards.

In keeping with the friendly legal framework for arbitration, foreign arbitral institutions can freely operate in Spain and there are no restrictions on foreign lawyers or arbitrators acting in Spanish-seated international arbitrations.

The competence of local courts to support arbitration proceedings has also been centralised with the regional High Courts (Tribunales Superiores de Justicia). It is worth noting that, while there have been instances of High Courts setting aside arbitral awards on public policy grounds, many of these decisions were reversed by the Spanish Constitutional Court[3] on the basis that regional High Courts generally must not reopen the merits or substance of the dispute and that cases that meet the public policy threshold are highly exceptional. The decisions of the Constitutional Court were welcomed by the arbitration community and have been followed in subsequent decisions of local High Courts.[4]

Spanish courts have also displayed their pro-arbitration approach by, for example:

  • upholding the validity of arbitration agreements in circumstances where the underlying contract was assigned to a third party or where a third party was a successor to a contract following a merger of two entities;[5]
  • extending arbitration agreements to third parties that are closely linked to, or directly involved in, the execution of the contract including the arbitration agreement;[6] and
  • extending arbitration agreements to a group of companies where the threshold was met to pierce the corporate veil under company law or group of companies doctrine.[7]

To further improve Madrid’s attractiveness as a seat of international arbitration, CEIA published a report in 2019 with recommendations to modernise the framework for the users of arbitration.[8] Its recommendations included greater judicial support in enforcing arbitral awards in accordance with international standards, the need for a Spanish arbitral institution of reference at an international level and greater promotional activity. Key recommendations have been addressed in the years since publication, including by way of the decisions of the Constitutional Court, the creation of MIAC, and continuous awareness-building initiatives undertaken by the Spanish arbitration community.

The ICCA Congress beckons

The collective rise of Madrid as a robust global hub comes amid high hopes for further developments. One key development ahead is the 27th International Council for Commercial Arbitration Congress, which is taking place in Madrid in 2026. As the largest global conference dedicated to promoting international arbitration, Madrid’s selection is a testament to the city's rise as a key global hub and the maturity and depth of the local arbitration community.

  1. ICC Dispute Resolution 2020 Statistics at pages 11, 24 and 19.
  2. MIAC 2022 Statistics.
  3. Decision No. 46/2020 of 15 June 2020, decision No. 17/2021, of 15 February 2021, decision No. 55/2021 of 15 March 2021, decision No. 65/2021 of 15 March.
  4. Recently, Madrid High Court decision 24/2023 of 14 June 2023, Madrid High Court decision 27/2023 of 27 June 2023, Madrid High Court decision 28/2023 of 18 July 2023, Cataluña High Court decision 31/2023 of 29 May 2023.
  5. Madrid High Court decision 14/2017 of 28 February 2017; Madrid High Court decision 68/2014 of 16 December 2014; Madrid High Court decision 6/2013 of 13 February 2013
  6. Supreme Court decision 404/2005 of 26 May 2005; Madrid High Court decision 64/2015 of 16 September 2015; Madrid High Court decision 79/2015 of 3 November 2015
  7. Madrid High Court decision No. 68/2014 of 16 December 2014; Valencia High Court decision No. 14/2014 of 19 November 2014; Valencia High Court decision No. 13/2015 of 5 May 2015
  8. Report of the Commission to promote Spain as Seat of International Arbitration.

Key contacts

Eduardo Soler-Tappa photo

Eduardo Soler-Tappa

Managing Partner, Madrid

Eduardo Soler-Tappa
Guillermo García-Perrote photo

Guillermo García-Perrote

Executive Counsel, Sydney

Guillermo García-Perrote
Cecilia Tilve photo

Cecilia Tilve

Senior Associate, Madrid

Cecilia Tilve
Wojtek Zaluska photo

Wojtek Zaluska

Associate, Madrid

Wojtek Zaluska

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London Madrid International Arbitration Dispute Resolution Government and Public Sector International arbitration Eduardo Soler-Tappa Guillermo García-Perrote Cecilia Tilve Wojtek Zaluska