International Constitutionalism at the European University Institute in Florence

At no point were discussants in a position to agree on the meaning of “international constitutionalism”. That, however, that was not the objective of the conference. Disagreement on the meaning of that term made little difference in the end. To some participants the term “international constitutionalism” described a set of substantive principles, often those associated with the regime of an international organization; to others the term described trends in international governance, in which courts played a pre-eminent role; and to others yet again the term described formal normative relationships at the international plane, analogous to features of domestic constitutional arrangements.

It is a sign of the conference’s ultimate success that a theme lending itself to such a variety of interpretations—a circumstance one may view critically or approvingly—could nevertheless generate three days of scholarly debate, exchange of and improvement upon views, and stimulation for further reflection.

A variety of academic presenters kicked off the conference on the first day and set the tone for the two days that followed. These included a welcome by Professor Martin Scheinin of the EUI, and presentations by Dr. Nikolas Rajkovic of the Austrian Academy of Sciences Vienna, Dr. Sarah Nouwen of the University of Cambridge, Dr. Catherine van de Heyning of Leiden University, and Dr. Veronika Bilkova of Charles University Prague. These presentations covered areas as diverse as global law and the rule of law, international criminal justice, the constitutionalization of the ECHR, and the “responsibility to protect”.

Over the course of the following two days Ph.D. researchers presented their respective work. Topics included, among others, the collective security role of the Security Council; aggression; European Union minority policy; constitutional characteristics of peremptory norms; international law in domestic courts; international institutional law and the internal rules of international organizations; European economic constitutional law and corporate social responsibility; post-conflict governance; the constitutionalization of human rights; and a Marxian critique of the global legal order.

It was this diversity of topics that rendered the conference interesting. If there was agreement on one point, it was that the meaning and implications of international constitutionalism and associated analyses must be elaborated more fully, lest the term become a floating label liable to be freely attached to any understanding of international law. For this reason it would be particularly fruitful to follow and synthesize the conference participants’ various works-in-progress.

It is no secret that a pleasant surrounding tends to be conducive to good thinking. The EUI offered precisely such a setting—the view from the Institute’s terrace over the city of Florence and its commanding Duomo was the backdrop against which coffee breaks took place.

I am certain all conference participants join me in thanking Wouter Werner, Ciarán Burke and Alexis Galan once again for organizing and hosting the conference. 

 

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