Religious Installations in French City Halls: A Christmas Crib Story

Christmas, in certain circumstances, has its place in the Republic. Judges have agreed in a plenary session reviewing two different Court of Appeal cases (courtyard of Melun’s town hall and hall of the departmental council of Vendée) that a Christmas crib in a public building doesn’t a priori represent a threat to secularism. In fact, the installation is legal, says the Conseil d’Etat, provided that particular circumstances give it « a cultural, artistic or festive character ». The decision is questionable for two main reasons: its foundation is doubtful, and its outcome unsatisfactory.

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French Constitutional Council Strikes Down “Blank Check" Provision in the 2015 Intelligence Act

Can intelligence agencies and their practice of secret state surveillance be reconciled with the rule of law? Is the unprecedented global debate on surveillance opened by the Snowden disclosures in 2013 bringing intelligence work closer to democratic standards? Last week, the French Constitutional Council indirectly dealt with these pressing questions by striking down a blank-check provision in the 2015 Intelligence Act, excluding “measures taken by public authorities to ensure, for the sole purpose of defending national interests, the surveillance and the control of Hertzian transmissions" from safeguards like the authorisation of the Prime Minister and the ex-ante opinion of an oversight commission.

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Can private undertakings hide behind “religious neutrality”?

Is the pursuit of religious neutrality an acceptable aim for public and private organisations alike, on the basis of which they may prohibit their employees from wearing religious signs or apparel whilst at work? In two pending cases before the CJEU, the Advocates General seem to arrive at opposite conclusions on this point. To solve this puzzle, I think it is crucial to see that there are two radically different reasons why a private-sector company may wish to adopt an identity of religious neutrality, which reflect two distinct types of interest a company may have in religious neutrality: a business interest and an interest as a member of society.

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Islam on the Beach – The Burkini Ban in France

In 1964, a young woman wearing a monokini played table tennis on the Croisette, the famous road along the shore in the city of Cannes. She was sentenced for outraging public decency. Half a century later, the mayor of Cannes just banned on his beaches the burkini, a full-body swimsuit weared by some Muslim women. Some other coastal cities followed, one administrative tribunal confirmed, and a new controversy around the keyword “laïcité” was born. It seems to me that the burkini-ban is a legal error and a political mistake.

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Kopftuchverbot am Arbeitsplatz als Diskriminierung

Ein pauschales Kopftuchverbot am Arbeitsplatz, so EuGH-Generalanwältin Eleanor Sharpston, ist diskriminierungsrechtlich kaum zu rechtfertigen. Dabei möchte die Generalanwältin den Fall offenbar zum Anlass nehmen, ein paar sehr grundsätzliche Dinge zum Verbot unmittelbarer Diskriminierung im Europarecht klar zu stellen.

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Between the Scylla of Terrorism and the Charybdis of the Police State: on the new French Anti-Terrorist Legislation

One month ago, France has enacted a new anti-terror law to end the state of emergency that had been in place since the terror attacks of Nov 15 2015. The basic purpose of the law is quite clearly to empower the executive (police and prosecution services) with investigative tools formerly reserved to the judiciary. Whether such a transfer of powers is justified or not, the fact is that the “country of human rights” actually now has today the most authoritarian anti-terrorist legislation in the European Union.

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Passing Laws without a Vote: the French Labour Reform and Art. 49-3 of the Constitution

The French government has brought a hugely controversial piece of legislation through parliament without debate and without a vote. That move is seen as democratically dubious by many. But it is certainly constitutional under the stability-oriented French Constitution of 1958.

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Deutsche und Französische Verwaltungs­gerichtsbarkeit im europäischen Mehrebenensystem: ein Interview mit JEAN-MARC SAUVÉ und KLAUS RENNERT

Wie die Verfassungsgerichte in Europa zusammenarbeiten, darüber gibt es eine breite und intensive Debatte – aber wie sieht es mit den obersten Verwaltungsgerichten aus? Die obersten Repräsentanten des deutschen Bundesverwaltungsgerichts und des französischen Conseil d’Etat geben im Verfassungsblog-Interview Auskunft über Stand und Möglichkeiten ihrer Zusammenarbeit.

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Frankreich im Ausnahmezustand: Eine Verfassungsänderung à la française

Ein verfrühtes Weihnachtsgeschenk? Am 23. Dezember 2015 legte der französische Ministerrat den Vorschlag für die Aufnahme zweier neuer Artikel in die Verfassung vor. Sorgen bereitet vor allem die Konstitutionalisierung der Notstandsbefugnisse der Exekutive, die künftig in der Verfassung geregelt sein sollen. Insbesondere die weitreichenden polizeilichen Befugnisse führen zu einer Machtverschiebung zugunsten der Exekutive und stellen ein Einfallstor für schwerwiegende Beschränkungen von Rechtsstaatlichkeit und Grundrechten dar. Durch die Konstitutionalisierung des Notstands wird die (verfassungs-)gerichtliche Überprüfbarkeit der Maßnahmen deutlich eingeschränkt.

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L’état d’urgence in the wake of the Paris attacks and its judicial aftermath

With the shock of the Paris attacks still fresh, further images started to flood the media in their immediate aftermath: Soldiers were not only seen boarding Rafale fighter jets but also patrolling the streets in France and Belgium, police raids were and are still conducted day and night throughout France, numerous arrests were made and even more people set under house arrest. Those internal executive measures in France are based on the déclaration de l’état d’urgence (in parts already discussed here). Now that the situation slightly calmed down, but with the state of emergency still enacted, the first administrative court decisions on those measures are in, deeming the police behavior just on all points.

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