29 February 2024
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Pushing Back

The CJEU has pending before it a crucial case on the criminalisation of seeking asylum and assistance to those seeking protection. At this critical juncture, this blog post highlights a sample of important decisions in which courts, giving effect to constitutional and international legal principles, set legal limits on this form of criminalisation. These cases reflect not only the appropriate legal limits, but also acknowledge the character of irregular migration and smuggling. Rather than framing individuals as  dangerous illegal migrants and exploitative smugglers, they reassert the humanity of both those in search of refuge and opportunity, and those that assist them.

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26 February 2024

Rethinking the Law and Politics of Migration

2023 was, to put it mildly, a terrible year for (im)migrants and their human rights. With the declared end of the Covid pandemic came an end to the exceptional border policies it had led to which had further restricted already weakened migrants’ rights. Yet governments have largely chosen to replace them with legal frameworks that incorporated many of the same rights negating policies and ideas- except for this time they put them on a permanent legal basis. Liberated from their initial emergency rationales, asylum bans have now joined outsourcing and overpopulated mass detention camps as standard methods of migration governance. What is the role of legal scholarship and discourse at a time where governments seem increasingly comfortable to eschew many long-standing legal rules and norms, often with majority support?

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05 February 2024

Heightening the Repressive Dynamic

The new French Immigration Act was promulgated and published on 26th January 2024, the day after the Conseil Constitutionnel decision which censored 35 provisions in one of its longest decisions to date. The Conseil chose to emphasize the Constitution’s procedural requirements, while largely avoiding substantive analysis of the Act’s drastic reduction of foreigners’ rights. Indeed, it asserted the constitutionality or remained silent on many provisions that undercut foreigner’s rights. The Act as promulgated thereby constitutes the most repressive text since 1945 and heightens a migration restrictive dynamic.

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01 February 2024
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Mit der Verfassung spielt man nicht!

Am 25. Januar 2024 hat der französische Verfassungsrat zahlreiche Normen des neuen Einwanderungsrechts für verfassungswidrig erklärt (Nr. 2023-863 DC). Im Kontext dieses Normkontrollverfahrens zeigte sich eine Regierung, die den Verfassungsverstoß als Mittel zur Mehrheitsfindung nutzte. Zugleich scheute das Verfassungsgericht die inhaltliche Prüfung und stützte sich fast ausschließlich auf Verfahrensmängel. Beides hilft Bestrebungen von rechts, eine gerichtliche Kontrolle staatlicher Maßnahmen zukünftig einzuschränken. Noch bleibt Zeit, die Verfassungskultur in Frankreich zu stärken.

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27 November 2023

Constitutionalizing the right to abortion is not political opportunism

Recently, Baptiste Charvin wrote on this blog that the right to abortion has become the subject of political instrumentalization in France. In his view, it illustrates a general phenomenon of 'constitutional desacralization' and underlines the division the French people are experiencing, 'despite being governed by a Constitution that enshrines a set of values that should be shared by all.' I argue that the French parliamentary debate on the right to abortion is anything but a phenomenon of recent political opportunism. Instead, it reflects – for once – a majority opinion, not the division of French society.

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16 November 2023

Is France Desacralizing its Constitution?

From 2002 to the present day, hundreds of constitutional bills have been proposed by delegates in Parliament, with forty of them being introduced within a year following the renewal of the Assemblée Nationale after the 2022 legislative elections. Each bill contains unique and far-reaching provisions. The proposals illustrate a shift within secondary constituent power, which no longer perceives the Constitution as a sacred text, the supreme standard of the French legal order, but as a wish list, and as an object of political communication subject to trivial media considerations.

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11 October 2023
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The French Republic’s (In)Divisibility

On Thursday 28 September 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron called, in front of the Corsican Assembly, for Corsica to be given ‘autonomy within the Republic’. The French government and Corsican elected representatives have six months to produce a text which, if approved by the Corsican Assembly, will serve as the basis for an amendment to the French Constitution. Nonetheless, the political reactivation of an old constitutional principle might get in the way. In particular, conservative parliamentarians can be expected to invoke the principle of the indivisibility of the Republic in the constitutional amendment process. Despite the principle’s long-standing presence in republican constitutional history, we argue that it cannot serve as a constitutional argument against Corsican autonomy, both because the Constitution allows amendments despite contradictory principles and because it has always tolerated a certain degree of divisibility.

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28 September 2023

Religiöse Kleidung ohne Religionsfreiheit?

In Frankreich lodert erneut eine heftige Debatte über Verbote religiöser Kleidung. Ausgangspunkt ist ein Erlass des französischen Bildungsministeriums, der das Tragen von Abaya und Qamis an Schulen verbietet. Bei der Abaya handelt es sich um ein langes Überkleid mit weiten Ärmeln, das von muslimischen Frauen über der normalen Kleidung getragen wird. Der in der öffentlichen Debatte weniger beachtete Qamis ist das Pendant für Männer. Besagtes Kleidungsverbot ist am 07.09.2023 vom Conseil d’État, dem höchsten französischen Verwaltungsgericht, für zulässig erklärt worden.

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15 September 2023

Verschleierte Freiheit der Advokatur

Aus deutscher Perspektive ist es immer wieder erstaunlich, wie weitreichend der französische Gesetzgeber oder die Verwaltung als religiös empfundene Verhaltensweisen im Alltag regulieren. Dies betrifft neben der Ernährung in Kindergärten und Schulen vor allem auch die Kleidung von Privatpersonen. Derart weitreichende Vorschriften und Debatten erscheinen aus deutscher Sicht schwer vorstellbar, trotz auch hier bekannter Diskussionen im Arbeits-, Schul- und Beamten- und Richterdienstrecht. Der vorliegende Beitrag rückt eine Entwicklung im französischen anwaltlichen Berufsrecht in den Fokus und ordnet diese vergleichend deutsch-französisch ein.

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12 September 2023

Sex Workers in Strassburg

A few years ago, France banned buying sex. In M.A. and Others v. France the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) now held that a motion of sex workers against that ban is admissible. The Court did not rule on the merits at this stage – this will follow in a subsequent judgement. Nevertheless, this admissibility decision marks a milestone as, for the first time, the Court will examine whether a sex purchase ban violates the rights of sex workers as guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling appears eagerly anticipated due to its legal precedent within Member States that have passed similar legislation.

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25 May 2023

Strong on Hate Speech, Too Strict on Political Debate

Online hate speech is a topic that has gained importance in recent years. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) made an important ruling in this context on 15 May 2023 in Sanchez v. France. From a democratic theory and individual rights’ perspective, I would endorse the first decision because it tackles the so-called “silencing” and “desensitization effect” of hate speech. The second decision, however, runs the risk of adversely affecting free political debate, especially when individual politicians are called upon to delete comments by third parties.

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01 May 2023

Gewaltenteilung vor Klimaschutz

Nach ihrem Pyrrhussieg in Sachen Rentenreform wurde der französischen Regierung Ende letzter Woche vom Verfassungsrat erneut der Rücken gestärkt. Anlass war ein Gesetzesentwurf zur Aufstockung des Militärbudgets als französische Reaktion auf den russischen Angriffskrieg. Verfassungsrechtlich ging es dabei um die Frage, wie intensiv Gesetzesfolgenabschätzungen gerichtlich zu kontrollieren sind. Ein Blick nach Paris lohnt sich auch vor dem Hintergrund des deutschen Bestrebens, einen „Klimacheck“ für Gesetze einzuführen, welcher vor ähnlichen verfassungsrechtlichen Schwierigkeiten stehen dürfte.

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26 April 2023

A Conservative Constitutional Council Watching over a Conservative Constitution

On 14 April 2023, the French Constitutional Council handed down its decisions on the constitutionality of the controversial pension reform and on the referendum that was supposed to stop it. In substance, the decisions were met with little surprise. What is noteworthy about them, however, is something else: Both decisions are excellent indicators of the profoundly conservative nature of the French Constitution and of the judges watching over its observance.

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17 April 2023

Die Renten- als Demokratiedebatte

Am Freitag hat der französische Verfassungsrat die Rentennovelle der Borne-Regierung im Wesentlichen nach präventiver Normenkontrolle bestätigt und die Initiative der linken Opposition zu einem Referendum („RIP“) über das Rentenalter verworfen. Die Entscheidungen sind juristisch so erwart- wie politisch kritisierbar und werfen mehrere grundsätzliche Fragen auf, die die Zukunft der französischen konstitutionellen Demokratie betreffen.

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06 April 2023

Corporate Duty of Vigilance and Environment

On February 23, 2023, French bank BNP Paribas was sued before the civil tribunal in Paris for having allegedly breached its environmental duty of vigilance. In particular, deficiencies in the vigilance plan related to the allocation fundraising activities are criticized. This climate litigation, involving a French bank for the first time, could increase the liability of financial protagonists in the fight against climate change if it succeeded. Nevertheless, one may doubt that the case against BNP Paribas will prove to be successful, as previous ones – which had been introduced under the 2017 law of vigilance (LdV) – are all either pending or unsuccessful.

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27 March 2023

Constitutional? Perhaps. Democratic? Not so much

The adoption of the Law on Retirement without a majority in the National Assembly has caused a huge uproar in France. The use by the executive of an article or two of the Constitution, as well as the combination thereof, is deemed constitutional until a competent organ says otherwise. And the only one who could, the Constitutional Council, will probably not say otherwise. But even if something is constitutional, that does not make it democratic. A look into the justifications given by the head of State and the head of Government stirs reflection on the relationship between the constitutional and democratic character of the proceedings.

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24 March 2023

La Foule, le Peuple et la Societé

Conflagration in France.

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La Foule, le Peuple et la Societé

In Frankreich brennt es lichterloh.

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22 March 2023

Big Brother is Watching the Olympic Games – and Everything Else in Public Spaces

The French National Assembly is currently debating the law on the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Despite its name, the law has more to do with security than with sports. In particular, Article 7 of the law creates a legal basis for algorithmic video surveillance, that is, video surveillance that relies on artificial intelligence to treat the images and audio of video surveillance cameras in order to identify human beings, objects, or specific situations. In other words, video surveillance cameras in France’s public spaces would now able to identify you and detect if your behaviour is suspicious.

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14 March 2023

Inter* Personen im menschenrechtlichen Warteraum

Bei Fällen aus dem LGBTIQ*-Themenkreis vor dem Europäischen Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte (EGMR) lässt sich ein gewisses Muster erkennen: In dem jeweils ersten Beschwerdefall (sei es das Adoptionsrecht für homosexuelle Personen, sei es die Frage der Anerkennung der Geschlechtsidentität von trans* Personen), erkennt der EGMR zunächst keine Verletzung eines Konventionsrechts an. Häufig erklärt er aber auch, dass diese Einschätzung sich ändern kann. So könnte es auch bei der Frage des Personenstatus von inter* Personen kommen.

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12 October 2022

Letting Human Rights Wait in Syrian Camps

Recently, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights handed down its decision about the repatriation of Daesh-involved family members of French citizens. The judgment has been widely commented on in the French and international press. The overall impression that emerged was that of a victory for the applicants and a clear denunciation of French policy regarding the general non-repatriation of French children and their mothers encamped in north-eastern Syria. Reality is, however, very different. In fact, the Court’s decision is very measured. In many respects, it does (too) little and comes (too) late.

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14 July 2022