16 June 2023

The Thuringia Project

Länder are uninteresting. At least that's what many think. German state politics, state law, state constitutions – there is something pathetic and wallflowery about them, and not just because of their limited scope. The Länder, I would venture to say, are perceived and experienced by most Germans basically as administrative units, at most as breeding ponds for political reserve personnel and reservoirs for dialect-tinged Landesväter- und -müttertum. But taking them seriously in their so-called Eigenstaatlichkeit, at least not north of the Danube, does not seem to me to be an overly deep-rooted idea for the most parts in the Federal Republic of Germany. Next autumn, new state parliaments will be elected in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia. And when I look at these elections, I have the choking feeling that we should urgently start taking the Länder as units of legitimised state power seriously. That we don't have a day longer to lose, actually. If you control a state government, you control a lot. The organisation and personnel of the judiciary, for example. Media supervision and public broadcasting. Universities, schools, theatres, museums. And, last but not least, the police. Authoritarian-populist parties, as the experience of the last decade has proven abundantly, tend to be characterized by their use of the power they once have gained in order to never let go of it again. To manipulate the electoral law, to stifle parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition, to pack the administration and the judiciary with loyalists, to make media, scientific and cultural institutions dependent on their will. They develop great skill in identifying and adjusting levers in order to minimise the probability of losing power in the event of a change in the majority. They learn from each other. These are often rather technical and seemingly unspectacular things whose relevance only becomes apparent when it is long too late to do anything against it. Not all that worked in Poland and Hungary, in Florida and Texas, can be transferred to other constitutional contexts. But much of it can. ++++++++++Advertisement++++++++ Am Lehrstuhl für Öffentliches Recht III mit Rechtsvergleichung (Prof. Dr. Michael Fehling, LL.M.) an der Bucerius Law School in Hamburg ist zum 1. August 2023, ggf. auch später, eine Stelle zur wissenschaftlichen Mitarbeit (m/w/d) mit 20 Wochenstunden ausgeschrieben. Im Rahmen des Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Energy, Climate and Sustainability (CECS) gehört die wissenschaftliche Unterstützung der Arbeit des Centers im Bereich des Energie- und Klimaschutzrechts zu Ihren Aufgaben. Wir freuen uns über Ihre Bewerbung bis zum 10. Juli 2023. Alle weiteren Informationen finden Sie hier. ++++++++++++++++++++++ Let's take Thuringia. Let's assume that an authoritarian-populist party in Thuringia, no need to determine which one specifically, were to get hold of state power: what could it do with it? What legal leeway would it have? What vulnerabilities could it exploit? How resilient would democracy and the rule of law be in such a scenario? These are questions we urgently have to ask ourselves. Questions to which, for the most part, we have no answers. What possibilities would the federal level have to oppose such a scenario? What could the Federal Constitutional Court do? To which extent would that half-forgotten, neglected and untested institution called Bundeszwang (federal coercion) under Article 37 of the Basic Law be of any help? What financial way of sanctioning an authoritarian-populist state government would constitutionally exist? When Hungary fell into the clutches of an authoritarian populist party in 2010/11, the European institutions and society were totally unprepared. When the same thing happened in Poland four years later, it was pretty much the same. It was only in the aftermath of the authoritarian-populist takeover in these two member states that Europe even began (if at all) to be aware of what was happening and how much it affected the whole of Europe. This should not happen all over again, this time on a German federal scale. If we only start looking for answers to these questions when the Land is already being orbanized by every trick in the book, then it will be too late. That is why we are launching the Thuringia project, and we are launching it now. Using Thuringia as an example, we will try to get to the bottom of these questions. Before others do. This is first and foremost a research project. We want to generate knowledge and make it public so that we have it when we need it. Hopefully we never will. But I don't think anyone should rely on hope at this point. We have a year. That is not much. We need extra money for this project. We can't do it on the side. We have to hire staff for it. We have therefore started a crowdfunding campaign on Betterplace.org. If you are as passionate about this issue as we are, then two things would be great: First: Please donate. Second: Please spread the link betterplace.org/p122637 on all your channels. Do you know people who you think might also be willing to open their pockets for this project? Then please send them the link via email, Whatsapp, Signal or whatever way you can. Please also help spreading the link on your social media accounts. Then we have a chance to get this project off the ground quickly. As I said. We have no time to lose.

The week on Verfassungsblog

… summarised by PAULA SCHMIETA: In the wake of the Polish ‘Lex Tusk’, the Commission opened an infringement procedure against Poland based on Articles 2 and 10 TEU – an unprecedented combination. NORA VISSERS considers these new legal waters to be relatively shallow. But FRANCA MARIA FEISEL welcomes the shift towards a militant democracy (Art. 10 TEU). During the past week, the ECJ issued its judgment in relation to the Polish ‘muzzle law’ – a piece of legislation aiming at dissuading or punishing Polish judges for applying and upholding EU rule of law requirement. LAURENT PECH provides an overview of the court’s ruling. In Bulgaria, it seems increasingly difficult to draw a line between organised crime, the judiciary and the political apparatus. RADOSVETA VASSILEVA argues that this is (also) due to the European Commission turning a blind eye to Bulgaria’s continued rule of law backsliding. 94 people lost their lives 200 meters off the Italian coast – in what is known as the ‘Crotone shipwreck’. NASSIM MADJIDIAN argues that this tragedy was avoidable and could have been prevented had Frontex and the Italian authorities not violated their search and rescue obligations. In early May, the Greek Supreme Court ruled that the neo-Nazi Hellenes National Party could not participate in the Greek parliamentary elections. According to AFRODITI MARKETOU the Court thereby laid out a whole new vision of democracy, which is likely to influence future cases. For a short time, 15 Turkish ministers were ministers and members of Parliament at the same time. AYLIN ÇIRAKCI, N. BETÜL HALILOĞLU PAKDIL & ÜLKÜ OLCAY UYKUN ALTINTAŞ have doubts whether this was compatible with Turkey/Türkiye’s constitution. On June 13, the EU’s e-evidence Regulation was adopted by the European Parliament. VALERIE ALBUS points out that the Regulations emphasis on speed and efficiency comes at the expense of safeguarding suspects’ fundamental rights. ++++++++++Advertisement++++++++ The Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy is offering PhD Positions in Law for its new doctoral research group „Growing Up in the Welfare State“. Applicants should hold an excellent degree in law, have an interest in questions of social protection relating to children and youths, and have the ability to work in a team. Please find further information here. ++++++++++++++++++++++ The German Federal Supreme Court is faced with the question of whether EU law always takes precedence in international arbitration proceedings between EU investors and EU member states. CHRISTIAN TIETJE explains why international law must prevail. In a case against an activist of the ‘last generation’, the Berlin Regional Court held that their traffic-blocking tactics do not necessarily constitute the crime of coercion (sec. 240 Criminal Code), but the crime of resistance against law enforcement officers (sec. 113 Criminal Code). MARTIN HEGER argues that the term violence as used in sec. 113 may not have been correctly interpreted here. A fortnight ago, the police kettled about 1000 people in Leipzig who were protesting for freedom of assembly. TORE VETTER reconstructs the events and comes to the conclusion that this was disproportionate in all respects. Can conflicts in the Middle East constitute an ‘imminent danger’ in Berlin? Although CHRISTOPH GUSY has doubts about the lawfulness of the bans on two pro-Palestinian rallies on Nakba Day, he believes that these raise difficult and unresolved legal questions. After a right-wing trainee lawyer was admitted to the state exams in Saxony, the Conference of State Ministers of Justice seems to want to restrict access to the exams by reforming the Federal Lawyers' Act (BRAO). This, so JONAS DEYDA, would mean putting the axe to the free legal profession and do a grave disservice to the fight against the right. Is the Federal Administrative Court's ruling on Freiburg's resident parking fee a setback for the green transformation of traffic? Only partially, say YOANN THIEMANN & ASTRID NAUNDORF – high parking fees on the basis on vehicle length remain possible, they just have to be packed differently. Finally: two new blog debates are running and a third continued. Firstly, the blog debate Shifting Paradigms of European Media Regulation began this week with contributions from NEUS VIDAL MARTI, VIKTORIA KRAETZIG, CHRISTINA ETTELDORF, JUDIT BAYER & KATI CSERES, JANNIS LENNARTZ, ANNA WÓJCIK, TOBIAS MAST, PAULINA MILEWSKA and NATALIJA BITIUKOVA. Secondly, Nachhaltigkeit in Zeiten planetarer Krisen was kicked off – a debate with contributions written by ROMY KLIMKE, LEAH WETENKAMP & CLEMENS DAHLKE and CHARLOTTE MAIER. And lastly, STEFAN SCHLEGEL & ODILE AMMANN continued our blog debate Open / Closed on open access.


That’s it for this week. In the meantime, all the best to you! Max Steinbeis

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One Comment

  1. Marcio Senra Fri 28 Jul 2023 at 01:13 - Reply

    Ich habe kürzlich den Film “Und morgen die ganze Welt” gesehen. Ich mag die deutsche Filmindustrie, ich schaue mir immer wieder Serien und Filme an, die im Streaming verfügbar sind (zumindest um meine Ohren zu schulen).

    Dieser Film stellt den Aufstieg des Faschismus dar (sozusagen, um keine Geister der Vergangenheit heraufzubeschwören), konzentriert sich aber hauptsächlich auf die Reaktion junger Antifa-Studenten.

    Der meistgespielte Schlüssel ist der des Art. 20 GG. Zu Beginn und am Ende des Films wird der Artikel vom Erzähler verlesen:

    “Art 20
    (1) Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist ein demokratischer und sozialer Bundesstaat.
    (2) Alle Staatsgewalt geht vom Volke aus. Sie wird vom Volke in Wahlen und Abstimmungen und durch besondere Organe der Gesetzgebung, der vollziehenden Gewalt und der Rechtsprechung ausgeübt.
    (3) Die Gesetzgebung ist an die verfassungsmäßige Ordnung, die vollziehende Gewalt und die Rechtsprechung sind an Gesetz und Recht gebunden.
    (4) Gegen jeden, der es unternimmt, diese Ordnung zu beseitigen, haben alle Deutschen das Recht zum Widerstand, wenn andere Abhilfe nicht möglich ist.”

    Die Debatte dreht sich um die Möglichkeiten der Anwendung dieses Artikels:
    1) Müssen die Möglichkeiten staatlichen Handelns ausgeschöpft werden, um einen Volksaufstand zu legitimieren?
    2) und wenn der Staat selbst, offensichtlich seine Agenten oder ein beträchtlicher Teil von ihnen, sich absichtlich nicht daran hält oder – was am schlimmsten ist – dem Faschismus anhängt?

    Ich entschuldige mich, wenn ich zu prätentiös klinge, aber in den Augen eines Ausländers, eines Studenten des Verfassungsrechts, wird Art. 37 GG, so wie es aussieht, nicht in der Lage sein, mit den Peinlichkeiten fertig zu werden, die sich am Horizont abzeichnen.

    Brasilien hat ein ähnliches Instrument – die Bundesintervention, Art. 21, Punkt V, u.a. der brasilianischen Verfassung. Es wurde bisher nur selten genutzt. Und es hat nichts genützt und konnte auch nicht genutzt werden, um das Problem zu bewältigen, dem das Land zwischen 2019 und 2022 gegenübersteht.

    Ich würde gerne die Meinung der Kollegen zur Anwendung von Art. 20 GG und seinen Auswirkungen (vor allem soziale Unruhen) hören, um den Aufstieg des Faschismus einzudämmen – der keineswegs ein ausschließlich deutsches Problem ist.

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24 January 2023

#DefendingTheDefenders – Episode 7: UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Satterthwaite

On the 24th of January, the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, we conclude our podcast with a conversation with Margaret Satterthwaite. She is a professor of Clinical Law at New York University and was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in October 2022. In this season, we have been looking at the challenges and dangers lawyers and human rights defenders face in their work in many different countries. We have been talking about Poland, Belarus, Turkey, Afghanistan, Colombia and the European Union. From harassments over identifications of lawyers with their clients to media pressure, SLAPP suits, imprisonments and violent attacks, we have talked about a range of threats lawyers face particularly in countries where the rule of law is fragile or where there is democratic backsliding, but not only there. In this conversation, Margaret Sattertwhaite offers a global perspective on the topic of our podcast, the defence of the defenders. We talk about global trends in challenges to the independence of lawyers, and we talk about structural problems that need to be addressed to defend the defenders around the globe. In addition, we circle back to Afghanistan, the country in focus of this year's Day of the Endangered Lawyer, and the horrific situation of lawyers, in particular women, there.

One Comment

  1. Claire Tue 24 Jan 2023 at 14:52