Brazil used to occupy global headlines with a virtuous cycle of a struggle against inequality combined with the eradication of extreme poverty and the establishment of a vast middle class. In doing so, the country personified the South American dream, namely material prosperity allied with social progress. Nonetheless, a couple of months ago, things changed dramatically. An endless economic crisis boosted by an unprecedented operation run by the Federal Police saw to it that numerous CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies were incarcerated. The common factor of these events: campaign donations. Propelled by this atmosphere, the Brazilian Supreme Court has handed down two recent decisions that impose a drastic end to a complex set of inconvenient relations maintained between the public and the private sector. Continue reading
Up for Debate
As of November 2015, Romania faces its most important social, political and constitutional crisis in the last quarter-century. If the 1989 Revolution signified a break with a totalitarian communist regime, the widespread street protests of 2015, which led to the fall of the Government, gave a new message: global dissatisfaction towards the whole political class and institutions marked by serious inefficiency and corruption. The Government's resignation led to an important constitutional crisis: one year before general elections, the country needed a new Government, but there was no clear political majority in Parliament to form one. In these circumstances, the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, has tried a new approach, calling on social movements and appointing a non-political "techocratic" government. Time will tell if the decisions taken were right for Romanian democracy. Continue reading
Many Eastern European states have seen their once glorious constitutional courts politically delegitimized in recent years. Now, Poland might join them. Hasty attempts by the outgoing majority to fill the benches of the court with judges of their choosing, and constitutionally dubious attempts by the new majority to thwart those attempts and to tamper with constitutional procedural law, threaten to inflict fatal damage to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal and its integrity. Continue reading
The UK Conservatives’ "Charter for Budget Responsibility" has, with the aid of a number of Labour MPs, passed the House of Commons. The charter's intention is that of committing the current and future Governments into running a permanent budget surplus – a sinister attempt to bind future governments as regards fiscal policy. Its inconsistency with the opposition against the EU Fiscal Compact in 2011/12 exposes, though, how much the Conservative's desire to constitutionalize fiscal surplus policy in the UK is wanting. Continue reading
After the terrorist attacks of November 13th, France has invoked the mutual assistance clause in the European Treaty. What does this clause actually imply? The short answer to this question is that nobody precisely knows. The statement made by the French Defence Minister on 17 November qualified the invocation of Article 42(7) TEU as a mainly political act – implying that it is symbolic in nature. This, however, is not the whole story. France is requesting her European neighbours to stand united against external security threats – not only by declaratory statements, but by concrete military commitments. This demand, in turn, will impact on the future course of European security and defence, a policy which France has always been keen to enhance. Continue reading
Whatever one thinks (and one does) about the British renegotiation of its terms of EU membership, one can only marvel at the prime minister’s bravado when he insists on the changes being ‘formal, legally-binding and irreversible’. Nobody expected David Cameron to be so categorical when he embarked on his long-anticipated speech and ‘Dear Donald’ letter, eventually delivered on 10 November. Surely somebody warned him that to demand something so trenchant would pose huge legal problems? Continue reading
France was the first member state to call for mutual assistance under Article 42(7) of the Lisbon treaty. The move came as a surprise. Most of the discussions in previous days were focused on the possibility to use the much heftier Article 5 defence clause of NATO. Compared to the tangible military assistance that NATO partners can offer, Europe’s obligation to assist has so far been seen as toothless and symbolic. While the EU’s mutual defence clause is still limited in its effect, its use is a timely reminder that there is strong interest within the EU to work closer together on defence. Continue reading
Matej Avbelj’s contribution ‘Now Europe Needs a Constitution’ is surely right in its diagnosis that constitutionalism must play a role in the re-generation of the EU. The gulf between the EU’s leaders and its population, and between distinct groups of EU states, is wider than it has ever been. If constitutionalism is an act of ‘putting things in common’ in a spirit of open dialogue, of deciding on the crucial question about the type of society we want to live in, such a discussion about Europe’s future is sorely needed. The key question, however, is not whether Europe needs a Constitution but what kind of Constitution the EU should build. Many commentators suggest that the lesson to be learned from the failed constitutional project in the early 2000s is that it was too ambitious: too laden with constitutional symbolism and state-paradigms. Perhaps, we argue, the failed constitutional project was not ambitious enough: it made no attempt to break with the models of the previous EU Treaties and in doing so, to capture the political imagination of Europe’s citizenry. Continue reading
The UK Prime Minister proclaims EU reforms. But the reform steps he demands address none of the actual problems of the EU. Neither on the sovereign debt crisis nor on the refugee and migration crisis any proposals or solutions from Cameron are forthcoming. Instead, he focuses on comparatively insignificant issues that affect the UK. This explains the largely ‘open-minded’ response by most European leaders after the speech. Continue reading
Satire is protected by the right to freedom of expression. Holocaust denial is not. This is the bottom line of yesterday’s decision by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of the French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, notorious for his frequent run-ins with French courts for antisemitic speech, defamation, or advocation of terrorism, and also known for his political involvement with right-wing extremists. Continue reading
In many EU countries, constitutional law blogs with large audiences have emerged, putting forward pointed opinions and profound expert knowledge on topical matters of public policy. We want to connect these blogs and encourage the creation of new blogs to form a tightly-knit network of cooperation. Within one year we want to set up an organizational framework to exchange texts and authors, to launch joint debates on current constitutional issues and to establish a vibrant constitutional public sphere in Europe. For this, we need your support. Continue reading
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
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
Obama did it, Cameron too, and now Germany seems determined to do it as well: Angela Merkel seeks advice in behavorial economics, according to her spokesman, in order to try more
Five years ago this blog first saw the light of day. Continue reading
This article is available only in German.
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
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
This article is available only in German.
This article is available only in German.