Imagine the following scenario: you are at a law library, searching for a German public law journal. You want to use it to marshal an effective argument about the German constitutional court. You start browsing bookshelves. After some minutes, a thought occurs to you that that this library is not located in Germany, but in Rome or Amsterdam. The journal you are looking for is, of course, published in German. Is it available at all? From the corner of your eye, you see German legal journals popping up. All is good.
Numerous legal texts and scholars use the term “transnational” to describe diverse legal concepts or phenomena the more traditional term “international” cannot fully or accurately capture. At least three different aspects are referred to or analyzed as transnational: the nature of the relevant cases, the operation of relevant legal systems, and the process of norm-making. First, many legal issues, including human rights cases, factually possess transnational features. Compare transborder human trafficking with a more traditional, textbook international human rights case such as discrimination against ethnic minorities in a certain state. The latter involves a state violating the human rights of its nationals within its territory, followed by an intervention of international law in a situation previously regarded as a “domestic matter.” In such cases, the main perpetrator is the state, the victims are the state’s own nationals, and human rights violations are committed within the state’s territory. A cross-border human trafficking case inverts this model: Continue reading
With skepticism about international norms and institutions on the rise around the world, many commentators have argued that multilateralism faces an uncertain future. Major fractures have appeared in international legal order, including Britain’s messy divorce from the European Union and the United States’ controversial decisions to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership, withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement and the U.N. Human Rights Council, and undermine the World Trade Organization (WTO) by sidestepping its dispute-resolution mechanism and blocking appointments to its Appellate Body. While the path forward remains unclear, for now many states are reassessing the strategic value of multilateral cooperation and are recalibrating their international commitments across a wide variety of contexts. Continue reading
Since his election in late 2018, commentators have expressed deep concern at the threat posed to democracy by Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, including how his presidency will affect environmentalists, indigenous people and workers’ movements in Brazil and across Latin America. Among other things, Bolsonaro promised during his campaign for the presidency to banish political rivals from Brazil. Branding them ‘red outlaws’, he said that “Either they go overseas, or they go to jail”. The background to Bolsonaro’s election is now familiar. Promises to purge the state of a corrupt political class, to tackle violent crime, and fix a faltering economy are hallmarks of conservative-right rhetoric in the current conjuncture. Indeed, these issues featured in the Trump campaign in the United States, and to some degree in the run-up to Brexit in the United Kingdom. Both the Trump and Brexit campaigns also had antagonism to migrants as their centrepiece. Continue reading
Arguably, more than any other global actor, Germany is at the forefront of issuing arrest warrants for atrocity crimes committed by the Syrian government in the wake of the Arab Spring. Three important observations can be made from Germany’s experience. First, it highlights the uniqueness of Germany’s universal jurisdiction as one based on a legal ‘responsibility to prosecute’. Second, it challenges prevailing preconceptions that accountability for core international crimes rests with one or two inter-state actors, such as the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court. Continue reading
The past decade has been one of the most turbulent times in the process of European integration. In this period, the European Union has risen to the stars and fallen back from the heavens. The beginning of the new millennium was marked by enviable achievements. The EU carried out a successful enlargement to the East. It adopted a single currency and experienced a boom in economic growth. The objective, laid down in the Lisbon strategy, was to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” This goal ought to have been met by 2020. However, the developments taking place since 2000 have made the attainment of this objective anything but possible. Rather than becoming the leading economy in the world, since 2009 the EU has been in permanent economic crisis. And, while the crisis has been tamed, it is far from resolved. Its consequences for the most affected member states in the South and in the East have been grave. They have shaken up the foundations of the well-ordered societies that these member states have at least tried or pretended to be. Continue reading
By the time of the “big bang” accession in 2004, when ten new member states entered the European Union, it seemed that the fate of East-Central Europe was settled. From that time forward, these states were certified as democracies in good standing. But before the first decade was out on the accession, it became painfully clear that a consolidated democracy could come unraveled. Hungary’s constitutional system began imploding shortly after 2010 and in 2015 Poland began a short, sharp slide toward autocracy. In Hungary and Poland, parties with autocratically inclined leaders were voted into power. Both Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński lied about their revolutionary ambitions before they were elected. Once in office, both began attacking judiciaries which were poised to hold them to account under the democratic constitutions they inherited. Continue reading