Will the empire strike back? Strasbourg’s reaction to the CJEU’s accession opinion

Tobias Lock Annual reports by international courts are rarely the stuff of controversy or harbingers of judicial conflict. Thus the strongly worded response to the European Court of Justice’s (CJEU) Opinion 2/13 in the annual report of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) presented by President Spielmann yesterday warrants a few comments. It is recalled that the CJEU considered the draft agreement on the EU’s accession to the ECHR to be incompatible with the Treaties on a number of grounds. Academic criticism followed promptly, not least on this blog. The short passage in the President’s foreword to the ECtHR’s annual report, probably squeezed in in the last minute, constitutes a first reaction by the institution most affected by the Opinion. Continue reading


Fri 30. January 08:00
At a crossroads: Russia and the ECHR in the aftermath of Markin
Thu 29. January 16:59
Ritual Animal Slaughter and Public Morality: a Comment on the Decision of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal
Wed 28. January 23:25
A Fresh Start: How to Resolve the Conflict between the ICJ and the Italian Constitutional Court

Up for Debate

 Focus  Tensions between constitutional and international law

At a crossroads: Russia and the ECHR in the aftermath of Markin

Ilya Levin

As part of Verfassungsblog’s topical focus on the prevailing tensions between international and national constitutional law, we go east and take a look at Russia and its unsteady relationship with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) – particularly the lately arisen tensions between the Russian Constitutional Court (CCR) and Strasbourg in the wake of the ECtHR’s decision in the Markin case. First, and in a more general manner, we briefly review the theories conceptualizing the relationship between domestic and international law, which traditionally go by the names of monism and dualism. In doing so, we do not miss the point that, as national constitutional practice in a variety of member states of the ECHR shows, conceptual clarity in terms of commitment to one or the other grand theory is often blurred, if not contradicted (I.). Clearly, Russia is no exception (II.). The Markin case marks a turning point in the relationship between the CCR and the ECtHR as Strasbourg, for the first time, overruled a decision of the CCR, which spurred a heated constitutional debate. The repercussions are yet to be seen (III.). Continue reading

181 Ilya Levin

Ritual Animal Slaughter and Public Morality: a Comment on the Decision of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal

Anna Śledzińska-Simon

A landmark case of a constitutional court can be told by its impact on consecutive judgments and our understanding of constitutional law and practice. Yet, in the jurisprudence of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, there are a handful of cases considered as landmark decisions not because of their outcome or the way they are decided, but because the Tribunal got them wrong. In this sense, the Polish ritual animal slaughter case is a landmark decision. Continue reading

335 Anna Śledzińska-Simon

A Fresh Start: How to Resolve the Conflict between the ICJ and the Italian Constitutional Court

Remo Caponi

Three months ago the Italian Constitutional Court decided that it would infringe the fundamental rights of Italians to follow the International Court of Justice and uphold state immunity as a barrier for individual claims of war crime victims (decision no. 238 of 2014). First commentators have pointed out the conflict between the two courts and the regime collision between international and domestic law. Germany’s possible reaction to the Italian breach of international law has also been taken into consideration. Finally, the possible role of the Italian Constitutional Court’s reasoning in the further development of international law with regard to state immunity in cases of serious human rights violations, which amount to the breach of a jus cogens rule, has been the focus of some contributions. I would suggest making a fresh start in this debate. What we need right now are procedural mechanisms to harmonize for the future, as far as possible, the claim of sovereign immunity and access to the courts, in case a state happens to be in a better position to settle the dispute at the international level in the interests of the victims. Continue reading

334 Remo Caponi

Colourful Case Law: Citation Analysis of the German Constitutional Court’s Jurisprudence

Julian Staben

Mit wachsender Rechenkraft und allgegenwärtigem Anfallen von Daten hat auch die Netzwerkanalyse als Methode der Sozialforschung rege Verbreitung gefunden. Sie knüpft an den Verbindungen von Einheiten an und sucht hieraus Schlüsse über die Beschaffenheit des Netzwerks und seiner Kausalitäten zu ziehen. Die Netzwerkanalyse wurde beispielsweise zur Erforschung digitaler Einflusssphären ebenso verwendet wie zur Analyse von Terrorzellen. Auch den Entscheidungen des U.S. Supreme Courts und schließlich auch dem deutschen BGB wurde bereits netzwerkanalytisch zu Leibe gerückt. Das Netzwerk, welches sich aus den Verweisungen der Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts aufeinander ergibt, liegt jedoch bisher im Dunkeln. Continue reading

203 Julian Staben

A Tale of Two States: Rule of Law in the Age of Terrorism

Giovanna De Minico

As a reaction to the recent terrorist attacks in France, several EU member states as well as the EU itself have announced significant anti-terrorism measures. To fear, which is the first result of terrorism, the state has to respond with the wisdom of a legislator, which should not act under the pressure of understandable emotional feelings. The State of Terror wants to spread chilling fear and make people feel alone and without protection by the State of Law. The State of Law should respond by educating its community to the values of legality, tolerance and solidarity. Its duty, in times of fear, is an ethical rather than a police one; it has to make the people leave their isolation and facilitate their social and political inclusion. This action requires concrete actions by political decision-makers. Continue reading

332 Giovanna De Minico

From bad to worse? On the Commission and the Council’s rule of law initiatives

Laurent Pech

The rule of law is one of the fundamental values on which the EU is founded according to Article 2 TEU. Faced with a rising number of ‘rule of law crises’ in a number of EU countries, the Commission adopted a new ‘pre-Article 7’ procedure last March in order to address any instance where there is a evidence of a systemicthreat to the rule of law. Having criticised the Commission’s initiative primarily on the (unconvincing) ground that it would breach the principle of conferral which governs the allocation of powers between the EU and its Member States, the Council proposed its own solution: a rule of law dialogue between national governments and to be held once a year in Brussels. Both initiatives, and in particular, the Council’s, appear grossly inadequate to tackle the problem of ‘rule of law backsliding post EU accession’ to quote Frans Timmermans, the First Vice-President of the Commission in charge inter alia of the Rule of Law. Continue reading

331 Laurent Pech

The Constitutional Status of Women in Turkey at a Crossroads: Reflections from Comparison

Ruth Rubio Marín

Since its foundation, the Turkish Republic took the enhanced status of women to epitomize its promise of modernity. Yet to the extent that women's equality was even articulated in Turkey, as well as anywhere else in that time, its expression was primarily sought in the public, not in the private, domain. Sex inequalities are still present in the Turkish legal order and the Turkish Constitutional Court has thus far had an erratic jurisprudence, sometimes prioritizing the need to overcome gender stereotypes and hierarchies, sometimes justifying unequal treatment and perpetuating such gender stereotypes. Continue reading

329 Ruth Rubio Marín

Outright Monetary Transactions before the ECJ: In search of the ‘golden mean’

Fabian Amtenbrink

In its preliminary ruling on the the ‘Outright Monetary Transactions’ programme of the ECB, the ECJ will have to find the ‘golden mean’. On the one hand, it is improbable that the European judges will risk a constitutional conflict with the highest German court by given their unqualified approval of the OMT. On the other hand, not only the unlikely rejection of the OMT in its entirety, but also the imposition of limits on the overall amount of purchases of government bonds could compromise the success of the mere announcement of the OMT in calming the markets and, moreover, provoke a resurgence of the Euro area financial and debt crisis. Arguably the dilemmas this involves are reflected in the opinion on this case by Advocate General Cruz Villalón. Continue reading

328 Fabian Amtenbrink

Cruz Villalón’s ,Gauweiler’ Opinion: Lost in Platitudes

Elke Cloots

On 14 January 2015, Advocate General Cruz Villalón delivered his Opinion in the Gauweiler case. The Opinion had been eagerly awaited, because it concerns the first reference ever for a preliminary ruling made by the German Constitutional Court (GCC), after decades of refusal to engage into direct dialogue with the ECJ. Nevertheless, it would be misguided to portray the GCC’s request for a preliminary ruling as a major turning point in its case law, heralding a new, gentler era in its relationship with the ECJ. For several reasons, which have been discussed extensively elsewhere, it seems that the preliminary reference procedure was not used for purposes of ‘judicial cooperation’ or ‘judicial dialogue’. One of those reasons is that the GCC claims for itself the last word on the legality of the impugned EU act. Even if the ECJ were to conclude that the Union had remained within the limits of its powers as laid down in the Treaties and, thus, that its action was valid, the GCC reserves to itself the right to review the action in light of Germany’s constitutional identity. Continue reading

327 Elke Cloots
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Too big to handle: Why we are so bad at preventing catastrophes

2014-10-12 Disaster
(c) sea turtle, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Financial crises, genocides, environmental catastrophes, epidemics, wars – constantly things happen we knew exactly that they would a) happen with some likeliness or even certainty, and b) be absolutely horrible. And still we have let it happen. And not just because we could not help it. But because somehow, all things considered, we did not want to. We haven’t done what we could have done. We didn’t want to know what we could have known. What is this strange phenomenon about? And how can we improve ourselves? To find answers to those questions, last week an extraordinarily illustrious group of scholars from all sorts of disciplines had assembled at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. Continue reading

Will an independent Scotland stay in the EU?

2014-09-05 Schottland
(c) James Stringer, Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

In less than two weeks we will know whether or not Scotland will remain part of the UK. In the polls, the No camp still leads, but just by a slight and shrinking margin. It might actually happen what has never happened before: One EU member state becomes two. Or, will they? Continue reading

Bosnia and the problem of generalizable human rights gauges

2014-07-15 Bosnien
(c) Amanda Robinson, Flickr CC BY-BC-ND 2.0

For five years Bosnia has been digging its heels in, refusing to align its constitution to the demands of the ECHR and to grant non-bosniacs, -serbs and -croats the right to be elected to its second chamber of legislation. Now, the Strasbourg Court has once again declared this state of affairs unacceptable. But what if it would hold other constitutional systems, such as that of the European Union, up to the standard it applies in the Bosnian case? Continue reading

Burqa Ban: My Right to Be Left Alone is Your Tough Luck

2014-07-07 Trespassing
(c) Michael Dorausch, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

An often heard argument in the debate on the burqa ban decision by the ECtHR is that a minimum of "vivre ensemble" is a condition of all freedom and hence a legitimate balancing factor with the rights to privacy and religious freedom. This, though, is irreconcilable with the "right to be left alone". Continue reading

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