Constitutional Change

by Dr. Alkmini Fotiadou, Centre For European Constitutional Law. In recent years we are increasingly challenged to revisit the notion of emergency powers. The response to the Paris attacks is only the latest episode, while the concept of (undeclared) emergency was frequently used in the financial crisis jurisprudence. In a very interesting paper, Christian Bjørnskov (Aarhus University Denmark) and Stefan Voigt (University of Hamburg, Germany) point out that little is known about the amount of additional powers granted to governments acting under a state of emergency, the trends in the evolution of emergency provisions over time, and the factors that cause societies to adopt them in the first place.
by Bartosz Marciniak, PhD candidate at the Law Department of the European University Institute in Florence, former Visiting Doctoral Researcher at the New York University School of Law. Due to the increasing disrespect for the rule of law in Poland, I have decided to draw the attention of foreign constitutional law experts to recent events in Poland, which already have been labelled by many commentators as amounting to a ‘constitutional crisis’. Due to the language barrier and the astonishing rapidity with which the said events have occurred, much of the disturbing news has not yet reached media sources outside Poland.
by Dr. Alkmini Fotiadou, Centre For European Constitutional Law. There is an almost universal consensus that the rule of law is desirable. Given this enthusiasm, it is remarkable how little is known about the factors conducive to it. A precondition for improving our knowledge of the rule of law is the ability to measure it. In a paper recently posted on the internet, Jerg Gutmann and Stefan Voigt from the University of Hamburg, set out to do just that. Based on very extensive data from a survey carried out in 99 countries, they propose a new indicator for the rule of law.
by Jónatas E.M. Machado, Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Last October 4th, Portugal had its general election. After four years of painful economic austerity, the people was called to pass judgement on the center-right coalition which ruled the country during the troubled Troika years. Surprisingly, the “Portugal Ahead” platform of Passos Coelho and Paulo Portas, the leaders of the ruling coalition parties (Social Democratic Party and the Democratic and Social Center/Popular Party), ended up winning the election, albeit with little less than 37% of the votes.
by Xenophon Contiades and Alkmene Fotiadou. Cross-post from Constitutional Change through Euro Crisis Law, EUI Law Department, http://eurocrisislaw.eui.eu/news/the-greek-referendum-unconstitutional-and-undemocratic-by-xenophon-contiades-and-alkmene-fotiadou/. No democratic country should have to decide on its future through an unconstitutional, undemocratic referendum. Greece did. On Sunday, Greek citizens went to the polls to answer a question characterized by oracular ambiguity. A timeline of the short pre-referendum period would begin with the announcement of the referendum on Friday June 26th, when the Greek Prime minister announced that a referendum would be held on Sunday July 6th. The vote would be on the «Reforms for the completion of the Current Program and Beyond» and on the «Preliminary Debt sustainability analysis», the then latest offer of the international lenders.
Dr. Alkmini Fotiadou, Centre For European Constitutional Law. Woke up this morning to find out I must vote on Sunday on the «Reforms for the completion of the Current Program and Beyond» and on the «Preliminary Debt sustainability analysis». I googled them but could not find them. A few hours later I found the documents through the Financial Times, while an unofficial translation in Greek appeared later on in the social media. Then, I re-read a bit of constitutional referendums theory. The prerequisites for elite-manipulation are painfully present. The most striking characteristic of the proposed snap referendum is that it is more than a snap referendum. It is a surprise referendum. Lack of time for deliberation is more than apparent. Actually there is no time to even realize what is at stake.
by Thomas Fleiner On June 14, the Swiss voters and the cantons had to decide on three popular initiatives. They adopted with 61% and 18.5 cantons a constitutional proposal of the parliament and government on Article 119 par 2c and rejected with more than 70% two initiatives of the people to change the constitution. One constitutional initiative provided a new competence for the federation with regard to student stipends for bachelor and master studies. The other proposed a new shift of cantonal competences to the federation.
by Anu Mutanen, LL.D., M.Sc. (Admin.), University of Helsinki. Finland used to have one of the most sovereignty-oriented constitutions amongst the Member States of the European Union (EU). However, the EU membership attained in 1995 and the overall Europeanisation and internationalisation of the Finnish constitution during the 1990s contributed to a change towards a non-sovereignist constitution. This was evidenced in the new Constitution adopted in 2000 and, in particular, in the comprehensive constitutional revision realised in 2012. As a result, Section 1 of the Constitution of Finland currently entails both a clause on state sovereignty and a clause on EU membership as follows: ‘Finland is a sovereign republic. [–] Finland is a Member State of the European Union.’ How did this unprecedented constitutional regulation come about?
by Thomas Fleiner On March 8, the Swiss voters and the cantons had to decide on two popular initiatives. They rejected both. The first constitutional peoples’ initiative was rejected by 75% of all voters and without any canton supporting the new constitutional article 116, which would have exempted family-allocations and educational allocations for children from taxes. The second vote concerned a popular initiative, which sought to establish a new federal competence authorising the federal legislature to establish new taxes for not renewable energies.
by Cristina Parau, Associate Member and Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. The post first appeared on Politics in Spires, in the Great Charter Convention series, hosted in collaboration with Open Democracy, IPPR and the University of Southampton. The first issue concerning a written constitution for Britain is: Where is the demand coming from? Contemporary organised demand for constitutional reform traces back to the late 1970s, yet even before then, isolated intellectuals – ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’ – had tried to make an issue out of a written constitution for Britain that would include a Bill of Rights.

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