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Comparative Constitutional Law – an Indispensable Tool for the Creation of Transnational Law

  • Sergio Bartole

The continuing importance of the study of comparative constitutional law – A European perspective – The Venice Commission and international monitoring of national constitutional systems – Authoritarian tendencies and the European Constitutional Heritage – Interpretation and application of constitutional provisions depends on the context – Comparative law as a common endeavour of judges, lawyers, and scholars

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Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Trieste.

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1 von Bogdandy, A., ‘The past and present of doctrinal constructivism: A strategy for responding to the challenges facing constitutional scholarship in Europe’, 7 ICON (2009) n. 3, p. 364-400 , in particular p. 394 and p. 397.

2 Tushnet, M., ‘The Boundaries of Comparative Law’, 13 EuConst (2017) p. 13 .

3 Rousseau, D., ‘European Constitutional Heritage: a Condition for European Constitutional Law’, 2 The Federalist, XXXIX (1997) p. 57-60 .

4 Weiler, J.H.H., ‘European Neo-constitutionalism: in Search of Foundations for the European Constitutional Order’, XLIV Political Studies (1996) p. 517 at p. 532.

5 See, for instance, ECJ 17 December 1970, Case 11/70, Internationale Handelsgesellschaft GmbH/Einfurh und Voratstelle fuer Gerteide und Futtermittel.

6 Wendel, M., ‘Comparative Reasoning and the making of a Common Constitutional law’, 11 ICON (2013) p. 981 . But, for example, in its decision n. 22/2016 (XII. 5) concerning the rights of migrants and their treatment, the Constitutional Court of Hungary recognised that the protection of constitutional identity rests with the ECJ and, at the same time, vindicated its power of guaranteeing the Hungarian sovereignty and traditional identity against measures adopted by the governing bodies of the European Union: I-CONnect, December 2016.

7 Pizzorusso, A., Il patrimonio costituzionale europeo (Il Mulino 2002) p. 16 .

8 Bartole, S., ‘Conditionality and Living Constitution’, in G.G. Harutyunyan (ed.), New Millennium Constitutionalism: Paradigms of Reality and Challenges (Njar 2013) p. 157 .

9 J.T. Checkel, Compliance and conditionality, Arena Working Papers WP 00/18, 1.

10 See, for instance, Sedelmeier, U., ‘Pre-accession conditionality and post-accession compliance in the new member States: a research’ in W. Sadurski et al. (eds.), Après enlargement: legal and political responses in Central and Eastern Europe (Robert Schuman Centre 2006) p. 145 .

11 Tushnet, M., The Inevitable Globalization of Constitutional Law (Harvard Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Working Papers Series Paper No. 09-06).

12 ‘... both normatively and institutionally, EU law remains interwined with the legal systems of Member States’: Tuori, K., ‘Transnational law: on Legal Hybrids and Legal Perspectivism’, in M. Maduro et al., Transnational Law Rethinking European Law and Legal Thinking (Cambridge University Press 2014) p. 21 .

13 On this terminological question see Tuori, supra n. 12.

14 Maduro, M., ‘Three claims of constitutional pluralism’, in M. Avbely and J. Komarek (eds.), Constitutional Pluralism in the European Union and Beyond (Hart 2012) p. 67 .

15 Ackerman, B., ‘The Rise of World Constitutionalism’, 83 Virginia Law Review (1997) p. 771 .

16 This aspect was not fully considered by Tushnet, M., ‘Some Skepticism About Normative Constitutional Advice’, 49 William & Mary Law Review (2008) p. 1473 .

17 Cooley, A., ‘Countering Democratic Norms’, 26 Journal of Democracy (2015) p. 49 .

18 An important element to understand the overall situation is the interpretation of the behaviour of the institutions of the EU. While the case of Hungary is still on hold after a resolution of the European Parliament adopted in July 2013, the European Commission both in July 2016 and in December 2016 invited Poland to reform the contested legislation concerning the Constitutional Tribunal. In both the cases the competent bodies have not yet considered the possible application of Art. 7 TEU. These developments bring into question the nature of the transnational law at stake. If the adoption of the follow-up sanctions depends on the political decisions of the European governing bodies, it could be reasonable to classify it as soft law. But in other cases, we are in the presence of law which grants recourse to the judiciary. See recently on this point, Sadurski, W., ‘That other anniversary’, 13 EuConst (2017) p. 417 .

19 Bognetti, G., Diritto costituzionale comparato Approccio metodologico (Stem Mucchi Editore 2011).

20 Weinberger, O., ‘Die Norm als Gedanke und Realitat’ [The Norm as Thought and Reality] , 20 Osterreichische Zeitschfrit fur offentliches Recht (1970) p. 203 .

21 See Kelsen, H., Reine Rechtslehre (F. Deuticke 1934), Ch. V, § 31 c-e.

22 See on this choice critical remarks in Bobek, M. and Kosar, D., ‘Global Solutions, Local Damages: A Critical Study in Judicial Councils in Central and Eastern Europe’, 15 German Law Journal (2014) p. 1257 , and Iancu, B., ‘Perils of Sloganised Constitutional Concepts Notably that of “Judicial Independence”’, 13 EuConst (2017) p. 582 .

23 CDL – PI(2015)001. However, it is convenient to remember that, for example, in the UK, normative provisions and administrative practices were recently reformed to avoid difficulties connected with their problematic application.

24 See Baxter, R., ‘International Law in “Her Infinite Variety”’, 29(4) International and Comparative Law Quarterly (1980) p. 549 and Weil, P., ‘Towards Relative Normativity in International Law’, 77 American Journal of International Law (1983) p. 413 .

25 A. Peters and I. Pagotto, ‘Soft Law as a New Mode of Governance: A Legal Perspective’, New Modes of Governance Project.

26 Dworkin, R., Taking Rights Seriously (Bloomsbury 1977) p. 22 , distinguishing principles from rules because they do not require an application in an ‘all-or-nothing’ fashion.

27 Bartole, S., ‘Standards of Europe’s Constitutional Heritage’, 30/II Giornale di storia costituzionale/Journal of constitutional history (2015) p. 17 .

28 As is suggested by – as far as I can understand his position by reading the abstract of his contribution – Jarasiunas, E., ‘The Prehistory of Constitutionalism: the Sources or the Archetype’, 118(4) Jurisprudence (2009) p. 21 .

29 Palka, B.M., ‘La Costituzione Polacca del 3 maggio 1791: tra tradizione e modernità’, 6 Historia Constitucional (revista electrònica) (2005) p. 285 .

30 Balogh, E., ‘La formazione della Bolla d’oro e il suo contenuto istituzionale nella storia costituzionale e giuridica ungherese’, in L. Besenyei et al. (eds.), De Bulla Aurea (Valdonega 1999) p. 129 .

31 CDL-AD(2009)048. The Commission shares the opinion of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors that constitutional history and legal tradition of a given country may justify non-penal functions of the prosecutors, but considers the Ukrainian and Russian historical model of the Prokuratura not in conformity with the European standards and Council of Europe values: it reflects a non-democratic past, it is overly powerful and does not offer judicial guarantees comparable with those offered by similar institutions.

32 Look at the review of A.M. Kelly, The Discovery of Chance: The Life and Thought of Alexxander Herzen, in NYRB (2016) p. 24.

33 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2014) 158 final/2) and European Parliament Resolution of 25 October 2016 (2015/2254(INL)).

34 Maduro, supra n. 14, p. 74.

35 Grossi, P., L’Europa del diritto [The Europe of Law] (Editio Laterza 2007) p. 48 .

36 Von Savigny, F.K., Vom Beruf unserer Zeit fur Gesetzebung und Rechtwissenschaft (Heidelberg, 1814).

* Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Trieste.

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European Constitutional Law Review
  • ISSN: 1574-0196
  • EISSN: 1744-5515
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