09 Juni 2022

How the Data Retention Legislation Led to a National Constitutional Crisis in Portugal

Some weeks ago, the Portuguese Constitutional Court (PCC) triggered a heated political debate on the need to amend the Constitution to grant criminal investigative authorities access to metadata on personal communications. Whilst disagreements between the political branches and the constitutional jurisdiction are common, this conflict is located at a wider critical juncture that intersects EU and national constitutional law, the CJEU, the domestic constitutional court, and ordinary courts. Continue reading >>
28 Januar 2022

Voting in the Pandemic

On Sunday, 30 January 2022, Portugal will go to the ballots on a snap election. Despite some initiatives to adapt the legal framework of the right to vote to the challenges of a pandemic, the amendments failed to accommodate the cases of persons under compulsory quarantine on election day, disenfranchising hundred thousands of voters in 2020-2021. Ironically, the severity of the new variant Omicron, possibly limiting the rights of up to a million voters, appears to restore the right to vote, even though on a dubious legal basis. Continue reading >>
22 März 2021

Not Yet but Soon

On 29 January 2021, the Portuguese Parliament approved the decriminalization of active euthanasia and assisted suicide for adults in a situation of intolerable suffering, with a definitive injury of extreme gravity according to scientific consensus, or incurable and fatal disease. A ruling delivered on 15 March by the Constitutional Court halted this legal innovation and cut short on introducing the right to a self-determined death in the Portuguese legal order. Continue reading >>
04 März 2021

The Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Portugal: A success story gone wrong.

Following an initial comparatively successful handling of the pandemic, infection numbers began increasing consistently after September in Portugal and reached an alarming rate at the beginning of 2021. A second lockdown started on January 14, 2021, with record infection and mortality rates and the National Health Service near breakdown. On 21 January, the measures were tightened and included the closure of schools and universities. A year later, Portugal is back to square one, and, as the failure to control the growth of the pandemic seems evident, medical and moral despair dominate. The impact of the restrictions on the freedom of movement contributed to a decline in the country’s overall score of The Economist’s Democracy Index 2020, that now qualifies it as a “democracy with flaws”. Continue reading >>
15 April 2020

The Constitutionalized State of Emergency

The late Giovanni Sartori once said that we lacked a general theory of dictatorship. It is very likely that we are also short of a theory of emergency. As the current pandemic has come to show us, not only we still have difficulties to include emergency into our conception of constitutional law; we seem to differ on what emergency means and necessitates and on what should be its place in the functioning of the democratic State. Continue reading >>
24 Oktober 2019

Between Legislative Defiance and Legal Security

In Portugal, a recent decision of the Constitutional Court rejected another legislative attempt to implement a successful system of surrogacy. For the first time in its 26-year history, the Court faced legislative defiance of its previous case law, but asserted its role as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution with arguments of “legal security” which provided the formal ground to escape the conflict between branches. Continue reading >>
11 Dezember 2018

Combatting TINA-Rhetoric through Judicial Review: Dealing with Pay Cuts in Times of Financial Consolidation

Recently, the German Federal Constitutional Court has decided that certain cuts on wages for civil servants in the Land Baden-Württemberg are unconstitutional. The judgment establishes a constitutional answer to the so-called “there is no alternative” (TINA) rhetoric that has largely dominated the political discourse on budgetary consolidation in the past. From this perspective, this line of jurisprudence allows for opening up a political and constitutional discourse that has become somewhat colonized by purely economic and financial considerations. Continue reading >>
28 April 2018

(Not) Striking Down Surrogate Motherhood in Portugal

Last Tuesday, the Portuguese Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional several provisions of the regime on surrogacy, as well as the prohibition to disclose the identity of gamete donors and surrogate mothers. The most striking aspect of this decision, however, is not what the PCC ruled unconstitutional but rather what it expressly accepted as being constitutionally valid. The clear messages sent by the PCC to the legislature show a careful self-repositioning of the Court in its role as a constitutional interpreter in a democracy. Continue reading >>
27 Oktober 2015

Portugal auf dem Weg in die Verfassungskrise?

Portugals Präsident Cavaco Silva verweigert der linken Mehrheit im Parlament den Auftrag zur Regierungsbildung. Ist das ein Verfassungsbruch? Wohl nicht, wenngleich die vermutliche Strategie dahinter verfassungspolitisch zu größter Sorge Anlass gibt. Continue reading >>
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