University of Helsinki

Posts by authors affiliated with University of Helsinki

09 February 2024

Women’s Rights and the Russian Constitution

Since the beginning of Russia’ aggression against Ukraine, the government’s rhetoric has become more conservative and nationalistic. In 2022-2023, Russia witnessed the introduction of a slew of oppressive legislation directly violating human rights. Against the backdrop of Putin’s focus on the fight against the ‘enemies’ and Russia’s isolation due to ‘fighting for the right cause’ women once again became the target of regulation with a steady and consistent assault on their human rights, particularly reproductive rights. Moreover, as women actively participate in anti-war protests, the authorities have been treating women more harshly during arrest, trial and sentencing as various reports show. Nevertheless, women continue to fight for their rights and freedoms in courts and on the streets, hoping for change.

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07 February 2024

Paving the Way for Violence

The negative effects of the 1993 conflict prevailed over the benefits from the end of a confrontation. Its outcomes raised a major barrier to the democratization of Russia and paved the way for the use of violence as a means of preserving power. This conflict contributed to the maximization of presidential power and to the weakening of checks and balances in the constitution, which included significant authoritarian potential. The political order established in Russia after the 1993 conflict largely determined the subsequent trajectory of Russian political evolution and its drift towards a personalist authoritarian regime.

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01 December 2023

A Borderline Case 

On 28 November 2023, Finland decided to close all its land border crossing stations to Russia due to the latter's apparent instrumentalization of migrants. That a foreign power, which conducts war elsewhere in Europe, directly engages in unfriendly acts against the EU’s (as well as NATO’s) eastern flank highlights the issues of national security involved. The situation is part of a broader European dilemma but presents certain idiosyncracies. How is an EU Member State such as Finland, respectful of the rule of law, to respond to such unfriendly acts which intrumentalize the vulnerable position of asylum seekers whose rights must, in principle, be observed at all times? This brief post addresses some of the legal issues involved in the currently unfolding situation.

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28 September 2023

Recovery and Resilience Facility two years after – quo vadis EU money?

In 2020, at the height of the Covid crisis, the EU embarked on a new path. It extensively borrowed money at capital markets and handed it out to member states. After two years of implementation, it is now possible to make some preliminary conclusions about how that money is being spent. Reading the reports and listening to the hearings in the European Parliament, it becomes abundantly clear that most of it has very little to do with European policies. Rather, spending goes into mundane national budgetary expenditures that may be useful as such but have little genuine European value and little transformational potential. In a time with pressing common European needs, this is not how it should be.  

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23 August 2023

How a Boat Trip to Estonia Challenged the Foundations of the Finnish Sentencing System

In August 2015, a Finnish citizen embarked on a tour from Finland to Estonia and back on a pleasure boat. The private boat trip quickly evolved into a matter of great significance. His journey not only challenged the foundations of the Finnish sentencing system but also shed new light on the requirements of proportionality that EU law may impose on national sentencing systems more broadly. The boatman was fined for not carrying his passport. He contested the penal order, and the case was heard by the district court before being escalated to the Supreme Court of Finland. The Supreme Court sought a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which delivered a verdict that struck at the very core of the Finnish sentencing system.

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14 August 2023
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How Cohesion Became the EU’s Vehicle for Economic Policy

In Brussels, something remarkable has happened in the last four years. Cohesion policy—which had heretofore been a policy backwater, aimed at addressing regional disparities—has emerged as the EU’s primary vehicle for reshaping economic and related fiscal policies in the Member States. As a result, any economic or fiscal policy measure that can be plausibly described as a structural reform (primarily an area of Member State competence, subject to Union coordination) can now be reframed as a measure of EU cohesion policy (a shared competence) that can be supported by EU funds to incentivize compliance. How did this happen?

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03 July 2023

A Taxonomy of Standing

On June 21, the General Court handed down its order in T-628/22 René Repasi v the European Commission. Repasi had challenged the validity of the Commission Delegated Regulation 2022/1214, a complementary taxonomy regulation on nuclear energy and natural gas. The General Court dismissed the action due to lack of standing.  To surmount the notoriously strict standing requirements before the CJEU, Repasi relied on his position as a Member of Parliament (MEP) and argued that a claim of a wrong choice of the legal basis that leads to deviation from the ordinary legislative procedure (OLP) gives an MEP standing before the EU courts. The difficulties that MEPs encounter while fulfilling their legislative responsibilities make Repasi’s argument appealing. However, creating a new semi-privileged standing category through the Union courts could also present its own set of difficulties.

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16 February 2023

Watchdog Watching Too Closely

In December 2017, readers of the largest and maybe also the most esteemed Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, were surprised to find an article which, among others, showed excerpts of classified, red-labelled documents. Very little was publicly known about the workings of that special center, part of the military intelligence, situated in a faraway resort. More than five years later, on January 27th, 2023, the Helsinki District Court found both of the journalists guilty of criminal disclosure charges. Put simply, the court’s decision is that media may report abuses of power. However, an interest to attract readers only is not enough to justify the disclosure.

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17 November 2022

Nature Restoration and Fundamental Rights

This year’s most heated topic of constitutional contestation in Finland is likely to be the Commission’s recent proposal for nature restoration. While nature restoration has an innocent sound, the matter actually involves a broad spectrum of constitutional issues. In this debate, political undesirability has turned into claims about the EU’s lacking competence in regulating forests and a general failure to respect the principle of subsidiarity. Last Friday the Finnish Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee approved an interesting statement of principle, which is likely to affect the country’s stance on EU (fiscal) integration far beyond the question of nature restoration.

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05 August 2022

Krieg, wie er auch hieße

Wie das russische Recht das Sprechen und das Schweigen formt

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A War By Any Other Name

How Russian Law Shapes Language and Instills Silence

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18 March 2022

A Declaration on the Rule of Law in the European Union

Since the Second World War, Europe has witnessed the benefits of rule-based order. Peace, prosperity, and progress have grown out of a shared commitment to the rule of law, both between individuals and states. As of late, these unprecedented achievements are increasingly under threat, as the basics of the rule of law, including the need for an independent judiciary, are questioned both at the heart of Europe and in countries beyond our borders. Time is of the essence. If backsliding on the rule of law occurs faster than corrective action, the passage of time will inevitably erode the rule-based order. We, the signatories of this declaration, urgently call on all leaders, in Member States and the EU Institutions, to uncompromisingly safeguard the rule of law in Europe.

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03 March 2022
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Time for Military Integration in the EU?

For decades, the EU’s security and defence policy was largely looked at as a theoretical piece in the overall puzzle of the Union’s external role. During the past week, however, the unthinkable happened, and European defence policy has taken a significant leap forward. This brings to fore questions about the legal nature of the security and mutual assistance provisions in the EU Treaties, including the relationship between aligned and non-aligned States in EU defence policy.

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07 January 2022

Beware of the Bulldozer

The case of Russia teaches us how dangerous extra-constitutional constitution making can be – and that it should always be just a last resort. No substantive institutional changes should be made outside of the constitutional bounds. Otherwise, there will always be the danger that breaking the rule of law will continue even after constitutional change has taken place. This is precisely what Russian intellectuals and jurists, who supported Yeltsin in 1993, learned under the rule of Vladimir Putin. We should try to avoid repeating their mistakes.   

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