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What is the Applicable Law?

The question to the applicable law (or conflict of laws) in an international case is one of three main components of private international law. Applicable law answers the question of which law applies to an international legal relationship. Within private international law, the nature of the legal relationship can be anything, as long as it belongs to private law. E.g. international contracts, international torts, international corporate law, international property law, international bankruptcy, international family law, international matrimonial property law, international personal law and international inheritance law.

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Conflicts of laws and sources of law

On the question of which law is applicable in private international law, there are different sources of law that have different precedence. These include sources of law at the EU (or supranational) level, sources from the Hague Conference on Private International Law and sources from national law.

The EU provides a large share of legislative instruments regulating the question of conflict of laws. This legislative process has been developing since the Treaty of Amsterdam in 2000 and, 20 years later, many areas of law are now covered by EU regulations and/or directives. Below you can find a list of some of the most important instruments in the field of private international law:

The Hague Conference has also developed many rules on conflict of laws, namely:

Of course, a mention of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (Vienna, 1980) (CISG) should also not be missed. This treaty covers international sales contracts of movable goods between B2B parties. The CISG has a broad scope of application and may sometimes apply to a case without the parties having taken it into account: after all, if the CISG is not expressly excluded in the sales contract, it may be directly applicable and the CISG determines the substantive contract law rules: it thus concerns uniform private law.

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Personal Contact

The IJI has a small-scale character, and that is also our strength. You will always have personal contact with a dedicated staff member, and communication lines are short.

Worldwide Network

We have a global network of legal experts from academia and practice. We can readily engage this network when your case requires it.

Up-to-date Expertise

We have strong connections with legal experts from both the judiciary and the legal profession, as well as academia. We actively participate in the scientific discourse, which allows us to stay well-informed about the latest developments in our field of law.

Independent Advise

As a result, our reports are highly valuable in substantiating a judicial decision, serving as the foundation for a notarial deed, or supporting the arguments in a legal pleading.

Engage us for legal consult

Our mission is to make private international law and foreign law accessible. We do this by supporting you with expert and independent legal advice. Could you use our advice on your international legal case concerning the applicable law? Feel free to submit your request for a consult via the online form or send an e-mail to info@iji.nl. Within a week, at the latest two weeks, you will receive an expert report from us. If you have simple questions, you are welcome to contact us by phone via +31 70 22 108 60 or via the chatbox, so that we can provide you with immediate assistance.

What our clients say about us

Lawyer Tim de Greve, partner at Stibbe.

I regularly consult the IJI in cases involving private international law aspects. The institute has been around for over 100 years, so it boasts a long history and experience. There are eminent people associated with it. Not the least Mr Strikwerda. The IJI legal counsels think along with you, immediately understand the question you are facing and come up with solutions. They have the right connections at home and abroad to answer questions within a reasonable time. Apart from that, it is very pleasant working with the people of the IJI.

Lawyer mr Channa Samkalden, Prakken d'Oliveira

We have consulted the IJI in several cases. One example is a case brought by some Nigerian farmers against Shell about oil pollution in Nigeria. That case involved the application of Nigerian law by the Dutch courts. And the IJI figured out the framework of tort law in Nigeria for that purpose for us. We used that advice in the proceedings and also submitted it to the court and it showed, for example, that our claimants were also entitled to claim against Shell under Nigerian law. Actually in all those kinds of cases, the IJI is extremely useful because you get a very solid advice on the basis of which you know: do we want to have a number of things investigated further, can that be done by the IJI or should we turn to someone else? But at least you can use this information at an early stage of your proceedings.

Lawyer mr. Ria van Seventer, Meesters aan de Maas Advocaten

Our law firm is based in Rotterdam, a city with more than 170 nationalities, so we regularly have to seek private international law advice from the IJI. For example, I have had to deal with the recognition of a child by an Italian, to which Italian law has to be applied. I don’t speak Italian so I can’t do that myself. I also don’t have access to the sources and the IJI does.

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