The Ljubljana Initiative for Re-Launching the European Integration

It is a sign of unconventional times when earnest people wish you a less exciting year 2017 compared to the one that has just, luckily, passed. Starting a new year, a less exciting one then, is an opportunity for reckoning about the past and for charting the plans for the future. For those who care about the project of European integration, these are no easy moments. By looking back we are reminded about the chain of crises that has been strangling the Union. By looking forward we cannot help ourselves but to wring hands at what is yet to follow. It is high time that this self-destructive European (indeed Western) narrative and, unfortunately, praxis were put to a halt. It is high time to present a positive alternative to the present status quo and to the populist decay. It is high time to re-launch the process of European integration.

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Der Burkini als Technological Fix

Während in ersten öffentlichen Bädern in Deutschland und der Schweiz Burkinis verboten worden sind, befand der Europäische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte am 10. Januar 2017, dass der Burkini ein Mittel sein kann, die Teilnahme muslimischer Kinder am koedukativen Schwimmunterricht zu ermöglichen. Der schonende Interessenausgleich, der so erreicht werden konnte, war nur durch diesen Schwimmanzug, der den Charakter eines technischen Konfliktlösungsmittels annimmt, denkbar. Solche technological fixes, die praktische Konkordanz zulassen, stehen auch in anderen Fällen zur Verfügung.

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The Hungarian Constitutional Court and Constitutional Identity

Ever since the 2010 parliamentary elections Hungary has set off on the journey to became an ‘illiberal’ member state of the EU, which does not comply with the shared values of rule of law and democracy, the ‘basic structure’ of Europe. The new government of Viktor Orbán from the very beginning has justified the non-compliance by referring to national sovereignty, and lately to the country’s constitutional identity guaranteed in Article 4 (2) TEU. This constitutional battle started with the invalid anti-migrant referendum, was followed by the failed constitutional amendment, and concluded in early December last year by a decision of the Constitutional Court, in which the packed body in a binding constitutional interpretation rubber-stamped the constitutional identity defense of the Orbán government.

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Poland and the European Commission, Part II: Hearing the Siren Song of the Rule of Law

As Poland has careened away from the rule of law, the European Commission has struggled to work out its response. Given Europe’s multiple crises at the moment, the internal affairs of a rogue government or two may seem less critical to Europe’s well being than crises that affect multiple states at the same time, like the refugee crisis, the Euro-crisis or the fallout from Brexit. But the proliferation of governments inside the EU that no longer share basic European values undermines the reason for existence of the EU in the first place.

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Is Article 50 Reversible? On Politics Beyond Legal Doctrine

Can the United Kingdom, once it has declared its withdrawal from the EU, revoke this decision later on? This question is at the core of the ongoing case before the UK Supreme Court on Art. 50 TEU. I argue that revocability fits neatly in the letter and spirit of article 50 because of formal and substantive reasons. I further content that the Supreme Court decision may create a bifurcation in which interpretation of a key TEU provision may become purely an issue of domestic law. However, I further content that actors' political decisions have progressively framed a situation in which revocability does not seem politically possible.

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Poland and the European Commission, Part I: A Dialogue of the Deaf?

On 21 December 2016, the European Commission adopted an additional Recommendation regarding the rule of law in Poland. Rather than starting the Article 7 sanctioning process, the Commission merely reiterated its old demands, added some new concerns and again held out the threat of Article 7 while apparently moving no closer to actually starting a sanctioning process. It is not that the Commission was unaware of what was happening in Poland. In December, the Commission stood by and watched the Polish government capture the Constitutional Tribunal. The new Recommendation indicates that the Commission simply chose not to act to head off the final stages of the Tribunal’s demise.

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Do(n’t) think twice, it’s all right: der EuGH beerdigt die Vorratsdatenspeicherung

2016 – das Jahr der zuvor lange aufgeschobenen Entscheidungen? Die Schwedische Akademie zeichnet den seit gefühlten Ewigkeiten als Kandidaten gehandelten Bob Dylan endlich mit dem Literaturnobelpreis aus. Angela Merkel erklärt, dass sie noch einmal kandidiert. Und der EuGH beerdigt kurz vor Weihnachten im zweiten Anlauf die Vorratsdatenspeicherung. Anders als der Preis für Dylan und die Kandidatur von Merkel überraschte die EuGH-Entscheidung jedoch viele.

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From Greenland to Svalbard: Scotland’s quest for a differentiated Brexit

On 20 December 2016, the Scottish Government released its blueprint on how Scotland can remain in the European Single Market post-Brexit. From the governing SNP’s point of view, the paper can be seen as a compromise given that it does not advocate Scottish independence. Instead, it proposes that the best outcome for the UK as a whole is to remain in the European Economic Agreement following the ‘Norway model’. It recognises, however, that in the current political constellation this seems unlikely. So, it argues for the continued membership of Scotland in the European Single Market.

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A Game of Values: Particular National Identities Awaken in Europe

The EU’s legitimacy is thin and this weakness is reflected in its impotence in the face of the drift towards authoritarianism in Central and Eastern Europe. It remains to be seen whether such an authoritarian turn as the Hungarian can happen in old democracies and if their institutions are strong enough to limit the effects of global processes which are shaping the national identities of societies and the impact of Member States on the shared EU framework.

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Towards a Solution for the Ratification Conundrum of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement?

The ratification process of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has been stalled following "No" victory in the Dutch referendum of 6 April 2016. Yesterday, the EU heads of states have adopted a decision addressing the Dutch concerns. The option which is currently on the table is by far the easiest to solve the ratification conundrum while responding to the arguments of the ‘no-camp’ in the referendum campaign. Any alternatives, such as the inclusion of formal reservations or a procedure leading to a Dutch withdrawal from the agreement, entail the risk of long-term legal uncertainty which would only be detrimental for the EU, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

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