Political Reductionism at its Best: the EU Institutions’ Response to the Brexit Referendum

In their reaction to the Brexit referendum, some EU institutions have shown a troubling understanding of law – law as the mere crystallisation of power relationships, norms as just technicalities, annoying obstacles standing between the political actors and their legitimate goals. This is profoundly wrong and dangerous.

Continue Reading →

Für eine Verfassungskrise gibt es keine politische Lösung

Was Polen will, kann die EU-Kommission nicht akzeptieren, und umgekehrt. Nach Wochen des "konstruktiven Dialogs" (Kommissionsvize Frans Timmermans) gibt es immer noch überhaupt kein Zeichen des Aufeinanderzugehens. Ist das schlimm? Im Gegenteil.

Continue Reading →

Die Kanzlerin schützt den Rechtsstaat. Oder wie?

In einem Rechtsstaat, so Kanzlerin Angela Merkel in Sachen Böhmermann, sei „es nicht Sache der Regierung, sondern von Staatsanwaltschaften und Gerichten, das Persönlichkeitsrecht und andere Belange gegen die Presse- und Kunstfreiheit abzuwägen“. Wieso eigentlich nicht? Warum gibt es dann überhaupt ein einschlägiges Ermächtigungsdelikt? Tatsächlich ist nach Art. 1 Abs. 3 GG die Bundesregierung durchaus verpflichtet, eine entsprechende Grundrechtsabwägung vorzunehmen.

Continue Reading →

How to protect European Values in the Polish Constitutional Crisis

Does the Polish development concern us — the European citizens and the European institutions we have set up? There is a functional and a normative argument to state that it does. The normative argument is that the European Union organizes a community of states that profess allegiance to a set of fundamental values—among others, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. The functional reason is that the European legal space presupposes mutual trust. European law operates on the presumption that all institutions are law-abiding. Otherwise, the legal edifice crumbles.

Continue Reading →

Paradoxes of Constitutionalisation: Lessons from Poland

This comment aims to explain a number of paradoxes of constitutionalization on the example of the current constitutional crisis in Poland. It attempts to demonstrate that this crisis is not only political in its nature, but structural as it results from the inherent tension between the concept of rule of law, democracy and human rights. It is also argued that the success of constitutionalization as a global project depends on strong social endorsement of constitutional institutions and practices, including judicial review.

Continue Reading →

Hungary’s Struggle: In a Permanent State of Exception

The Hungarian government has called for a referendum on EU relocation quota plan and declared a “nationwide migrant crisis”. The justification given by the government for these measures was the “massive immigration” which “endangers the jobs of Hungarians and redraws Hungary’s cultural and religious identity”. The argument went that, due to a “migrant crisis” the Hungarian government needed a greater room for maneuvre, not limited by constitutional constraints, in order to manage the crisis. This argument presupposes that, as a result of the migrant crisis, Hungary has ended up in a state of exception, when constitutional guarantees have to be limited or suspended; essential powers have to be concentrated in the hands of the prime minister, until the crisis is overcome.

Continue Reading →

The Power of the Rule of Law: The Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s Forceful Reaction

On 9th March ‒ just two days before the Venice Commission adopted its opinion on the same matter ‒ the Polish Constitutional Tribunal announced its judgment on the statute of 22nd December 2015 amending the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal. This legislative move resembled nothing less than a constitutional coup d’etat against the Polish judiciary and the constitutional state. Fortunately this assault encountered a forceful reaction of its designated target, the Tribunal itself. With the probably most important and in its substance most extraordinary ruling since its establishment thirty years ago the Court asserts itself as the guardian of the Polish constitution. The Court’s reasoning – widely applauded by legal scholars and practitioners – evidences one central point: The Tribunal proved to be a strong opponent within the power play of Kaczyński and its arsenal of puppets holding key public offices.

Continue Reading →

Poland, Hungary and Europe: Pre-Article 7 Hopes and Concerns

The European Commission’s opening of a rule of law dialogue with Poland in the new pre-Article 7 format developed last year is an important test of European constitutionalism both on the EU and on the Member State level. The mechanism is meant to address systemic violations of the rule of law in several steps, in the format of a structured dialogue. The new procedure does not preclude or prevent the launching of an infringement procedure by the Commission. The probe into Poland’s measures against the Constitutional Tribunal and its new media regulation is expected to test the viability of an EU constitutional enforcement mechanism against a Member State.

Continue Reading →

Aus Anlass Polens: einige Überlegungen zum Recht auf Widerstand

Ab heute ist es amtlich: Die Mittel, zu denen Polens Regierung, Präsident und Parlamentsmehrheit im Konflikt mit dem polnischen Verfassungsgericht gegriffen haben, sind nicht einfach nur ein Verfassungsverstoß. Das ist ein Angriff auf die Grundlagen der Verfassungsstaatlichkeit selbst – auf Rechtsstaatlichkeit, Demokratie und Menschenrechte. Wäre eine Konstellation, wie sie im Augenblick in Polen zu finden ist, ein Anwendungsfall für ein Art. 20 Abs. 4 Grundgesetz entsprechendes Recht auf Widerstand? Mir scheint, das wäre sie – wenn die polnische Regierung sich dem Gutachten der Venedig-Kommission nicht beugt.

Continue Reading →

The Polish Constitutional Crisis and “Politics of Paranoia”

Thanks to the growing interest in the “Polish case”, Europe should now have a clear legal understanding of what is going on in Poland and of the motives of the government: the systemic repudiation of some of the fundamental principles of Polish constitutional order, rule of law, legality, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, supremacy of the Constitution and the monopoly of constitutional review.

Continue Reading →