What is a topic in international law scholarship? Any answer will most probably include the term “relevance”, perhaps also a reference to some “general interest”. Such a (rather quantitative) answer will evaluate what international law scholars actually write about at a given time. It will conclude from a list of publications that some topics have been considered more relevant than others by international law scholars, as they wrote more about the former topics and less (or nothing) about the others which subsequently may be considered less relevant – even “irrelevant”.
Another way of responding to the question may include a geographical aspect – the question then changes into “what topic is relevant where?” This question occurred to me when I wrote my article “African International Legal Histories” (2018) in response to a call for papers which asked “why it is that we write the [international legal] histories we write” and “what questions we fail to explore”. Continue reading
The volume “Von Staat zu Staatlichkeit”, edited by Gunnar Folke Schuppert, wants “to supplement the overly narrow concept of the state with the concept of statehood” – or even to replace it and thus pursue “Staatlichkeitswissenschaft” (statehood studies) rather than the traditional “Staatswissenschaft” (state studies). It aims at overcoming the problem that many political entities – nowadays, yet also throughout history – do not fulfil criteria such as full sovereignty, territorial integrity, a legitimate government or efficient bureaucracy, derived from the idealised, so-called post-1648 ‘Westphalian State’ or its OECD update. The semantic shift from state to statehood provides a means to avoid a simplifying either/or-approach, enabling a nuanced view on forms of governance, because most, if not all these supposedly deficient entities will show at least some degrees of statehood. Instead of counting the deficits an empire, a ‘failed’ state, Continue reading
The recent translation and edition of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde’s work into English by Mirjam Künkler and Tine Stein represents an important impulse for the reception of a still marginal author in Anglo-Saxon constitutional theory. Böckenförde’s notable absence in the Anglo-Saxon debate so far has produced an artificial division between Anglo-Saxon and German constitutional theory. That division has weakened the understanding of important developments in Germany and obscured its connections with Anglo-American theory. The broad and competent translation of Böckenförde by Oxford University Press could now help to link German constitutional theory under the Grundgesetz to Anglo-Saxon constitutional theory, from which other legal traditions can draw important lessons. Continue reading
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.
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
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
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