Chapter 1: A flexible system in flux: on the realignment of public policy
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This introductory chapter summarizes some of the essential findings from the subsequent country reports. Public policy is something of a "mischief maker" in the system of private international law, as it prevents application of the foreign law which should apply. Nevertheless, all relevant legal orders are in agreement – at least at the outset – that the public policy exception must remain reserved for extreme special cases, such that its role is limited in practice. Closer inspection however reveals exciting developments, which indicate a shift in the function of public policy over the course of time. This is demonstrated through the concept of relativity, which functions as a sort of basic theoretical framework of public policy. Decisive factors are the importance of the rule to be protected, the severity of the breach and the proximity of the case at hand to the forum state. There are new trends visible on all three points, which influence our understanding of public policy and its application in practice.