From Emergency to Disaster

This week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government put before the Hungarian Parliament two draft laws that, if passed, would end the state of emergency and create a new legal framework for handing the pandemic from here on out.  In doing so, the government was responding to those who criticized the unlimited power that the government had been given in the law creating a pandemic emergency, the Enabling Act of 30 March 2020.  That law allowed the government to override any law by decree, a power that was unlimited in both scope and time and that violated Fidesz’ own “illiberal” constitution the Fundamental Law.  

The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.   One of the draft laws is less than one page long accompanied by two pages of justification.   It purports to repeal the initial Enabling Act (about which, more below).    The other one is called the law on “transitional provisions” and at first it seems only to provide lots of technical answers to questions that arise about how to reset deadlines for various legal processes that were delayed when the economy stopped. The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.

Continue Reading →

Rights reaching beyond Borders

The German Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling on the BND establishes that the German fundamental rights guarantee protections against the interference of a German state authority like the BND also for non-German nationals in non-German territory. The court, however, leaves the question unaddressed of whether the extra-territorial applicability of the German fundamental rights extends to other scenarios as well, and especially to the other dimensions of the German fundamental rights.

Continue Reading →

Constitutional Innovation, Democratic Stagnation?

The recovery plan of the Commission entitled “Next Generation EU” proposes a compromise that goes beyond the ominous lowest common denominator. With a package of EUR 750bn in total, comprising EUR 250bn in loans and the rest in grants, the Commission paves the way for both forward-looking public finance and constitutional innovation. The proposals are masterpieces of high-tech legal engineering. Again, European constitutional law evolves through crisis. Yet, again, it stands to reason how far the proposed instruments will shift the European Union towards enhancing solidarity and democracy.

Continue Reading →

Trump vs. Twitter

Donald Trump is among the world’s most famous and prolific Twitter brawlers, picking fights — while the sitting President of the United States — with, among others, Greta Thunberg, supermodel Chrissy Teigen, and his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Now he finds himself in a fight with Twitter itself, and he is bringing the power of his high office to bear. After Twitter began flagging tweets from the President under a new fact-checking policy, Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) that threatens actions against platforms engaged in “Online Censorship.” The legal effects of the President’s action are likely to be limited. The broader political effects are harder to gauge.

Continue Reading →

The Schrödinger’s Advocate General

We know Brexit means Brexit but should it also mean violating EU Primary Law? Eleanor Sharpston QC, one of the Advocates General of the European Court of Justice, launched an unprecedented legal action "against the EU and her own judicial colleagues after attempts were made to sack her": The national governments of 27 EU Member States decided to terminate her appointment early. Why? Because Brexit ought to mean Brexit or so it seems.

Continue Reading →

Unquestioned supremacy still begs the question

Earlier this week, 32 leading scholars of EU law and politics signed the statement that national courts cannot override CJEU judgments, in response to a demonstration by the BVerfG that it actually can. We share the signatories’ concern that Weiss might (and most probably will) be used as a pretext for refusing to comply with the CJEU’s rulings and the EU rule of law requirements in Member States such as Poland or Hungary. We are also critical of the conclusion to which the BVerfG arrived in its decision, though we accept some of its premises (i.e., that the national disapplication of EU acts may be justified in some rare and exceptional cases). However, even though we are not all constitutional pluralists, we take issue with some aspects of the reasoning behind the original statement and question the doctrinal and empirical arguments it invokes in favour of EU law’s unconditional supremacy.

Continue Reading →

COVID-19 in Paraguay: Health Success and Constitutional Deficit

Paraguay has been rated as the South American country that has best avoided the spread of COVID-19. This success could have come under the wing of the rule of the Constitution. However, up to now, the Paraguayan response to COVID-19 brought along with it the use of a constitutionally questionable law, kept in force a terrible approach to constitutional interpretation, and missed the opportunity for the branches of public power to collaborate with one another.

Continue Reading →

Fighting COVID-19 with Religious Discrimination

The Korean authorities have garnered significant praise for their effective response to COVID-19. However, the country’s experience has not been without controversy. A significant proportion of cases were publicly attributed to a controversial religious congregation, and the authorities’ dealings with its members raise questions about compliance with a number of human rights.

Continue Reading →

Amtsautorität: Der wunde Punkt der Chancengleichheit

Die „Amtsautorität“ ist ein schillernder Begriff, der eigentlich besser zur Obrigkeitshörigkeit im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich passt als in die heutige Zeit. Dennoch stellt die Frage nach der „Nutzung von Amtsautorität“ einen festen Bestandteil der Rechtsprechung des Bundesverfassungsgerichts dar, wenn es um die Reglementierung der Neutralitätspflicht der Amtsträger zugunsten der Chancengleichheit der Parteien geht. Dass dies auch in der anstehenden Seehofer-Entscheidung so sein wird, bietet Anlass, die schwierige Rolle der Amtsautorität in der Äußerungsrechtsprechung des BVerfG zu reflektieren.

Continue Reading →

VB Live: Judicial Independence – a Public Talk by Robert Spano, President of the ECtHR

Today on VB: In his first public talk since taking over the presidency of the European Court of Human Rights, Judge Robert Spano speaks about "The Principle of Judicial Independence and the Democratic Virtues of Human Rights Law." The talk will be followed by questions from the online audience, chaired by iCourts Director, Professor Mikael Rask Madsen.

Continue Reading →

Notebooks für Alle

Im Zentrum der Diskussionen um die von der Politik getroffenen Maßnahmen zur Bekämpfung des Corona-Virus steht die Wirtschaft. Im Vergleich dazu laufen die Auswirkungen der Schulschließungen auf Kinder und Jugendliche bislang weitgehend unter dem politischen und medialen Aufmerksamkeitsradar. Dabei korrespondiert mit dem staatlichen Bildungs- und Erziehungsauftrag auch die Pflicht des Staates sicherzustellen, dass alle Kinder und Jugendlichen in gleicher Weise am Schulunterricht teilnehmen können und nicht aufgrund ihrer Herkunft diskriminiert werden. In letzter Konsequenz müssen Staat oder Schulträger deshalb auch die Kosten für die notwendigen Lernmittel tragen.

Continue Reading →

A Motion of No Confidence and Political Power Struggles Amidst a Pandemic

Only in office since the beginning of February, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti did not survive a motion of no confidence in late March. Instead of calling new elections, the President of the Republic has been working towards forming a new government, invoking his right to propose a Prime Minister. This move, however, has no basis in the constitution, and the Constitutional Court is expected to clarify the matter any day.

Continue Reading →

Corona Constitutional #30: One Country, One System

Ein Vierteljahrhundert lang hat sich Hong Kong als liberale, rechtsstaatliche Insel in einem autoritären Staat gehalten. Nun plant die chinesische Regierung ein neues Sicherheitsgesetz, das von Liberalität und Grundrechtsschutz wohl nicht viel übrig lassen wird. Im Podcast-Interview mit Max Steinbeis beleuchtet DAVID LAW von der Universität Hong Kong die verfassungsrechtlichen Hintergründe dieser bedrückenden Entwicklung, und stößt auf die dringende Frage: Welche Möglichkeiten und welche Verantwortung haben Wissenschaftler_innen, wenn es brenzlig wird im Kampf um die Freiheit?

Continue Reading →

Passive and Unequal: The Karlsruhe Vision for the Eurozone

The decision of the Bundesverfassungsgericht on the European Central Bank’s PSPP program did not come as a shock. All the critical arguments of that decision can be found explicitly or implicitly in the BVerfG’s referral to the Court of Justice of the EU on 18 July 2017. The real object of the decision of the BVerfG is the economic governance of the Eurozone or rather the big bet of European solidarity and European integration, in the midst of a pandemic even.

Continue Reading →

Corona Constitutional #29: Bundesbank in der Zwickmühle

Über das EZB-Urteil des Bundesverfassungsgerichts haben wir schon viel gestritten. Aber wie genau soll es jetzt weiter gehen? Um das herauszufinden, hat der Bundestag gestern eine Gruppe Sachverständiger eingeladen. Einer von ihnen war CHRISTIAN WALTER, Professor an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Mit ihm spricht Max Steinbeis in der heutigen Podcastfolge über die komplizierten Folgen des umstrittenen Urteils.

Continue Reading →

National Courts Cannot Override CJEU Judgments

The European Union is a community based on the rule of law. The EU legal order is the backbone that holds the EU together, and the German Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling in Weiss poses a profound threat to that legal order. This threat goes far beyond the potential consequences of the Weiss ruling for European monetary policy. We write this statement to express our shared view that the German Court’s assertion that it can declare that a CJEU judgment “has no binding force in Germany” is untenable and must be forcefully rejected. We also write to challenge those versions of scholarship on constitutional pluralism and constitutional identity that would defend the authority of any national court to make such a ruling and that helped (even if unintentionally) encourage it to do so.

Continue Reading →

Lockdown Fatigue: Pandemic from the Perspective of Nudge Theory

Some governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing policies based on ideas from behavioural psychology, especially ‘nudge theory’. But the pandemic has highlighted two important failings of ‘nudging’ – its libertarian opposition to state intervention; and its lack of any theory of psychological interiority.

Continue Reading →

COVID-19: Walking the Tightrope of Vaccination Obligations

Normally, outside states of public health emergency, many countries employ some type of vaccination coercion scheme to encourage uptake. The range of possible measures, including monetary incentives, social exclusion, fines, and criminal penalties, fall on a spectrum from voluntary to strictly mandatory. Given the power and efficacy of vaccinations, many nations have adopted varying approaches to compelling vaccination against emergent public health threats. Specifically, this article examines the legal and historical orientation of mandatory vaccination in the US and Germany.

Continue Reading →