1. Events
  2. 2014
  3. April
  4. Constitutionalism as a global value: are we moving towards a principle of 'structural homogeneity' in international law?




Constitutionalism as a global value: are we moving towards a principle of 'structural homogeneity' in international law?



Staff, Students, Alumni, Academics

Speaker: Dr Christian Pippan, University of Graz

Series: International Law and Affairs Group (ILAG) seminars

In modern political thought, "constitutionalism" is essentially the idea that government can and should be legally limited in its powers, and that its authority or legitimacy depends on its observance of these limitations. According to this understanding, a constitution does not only consist of a set of norms creating and structuring governmental power; the relevant provisions must also impose clearly defined limits on those powers. Norms and procedures ensuring that the authority of government is based on the periodically ascertained free will of the people; mechanisms providing for a separation of powers and respect for the rule of law; as well as constitutionally guaranteed civil rights against government are generally regarded as being of outstanding importance in this regard. Taken together, these elements are constitutive for what in German and Austrian constitutional doctrine is known as "materielle Verfassungsstaatlichkeit".

Federal constitutional orders that define themselves along the lines of constitutionalism are faced with the particular challenge of guaranteeing "materielle Verfassungsstaatlichkeit" not only at the level of the federal constitution, but also at the level of state constitutions. A central constitutional device to meet this challenge is the so-called "principle of homogeneity". Enshrined in the federal constitution, it typically requires the federal units to ensure that their autonomous constitutional orders are in line with fundamental principles of the constitutional order of the federation. The federal constitution usually provides for certain monitoring mechanisms ("Bundesaufsicht") as well as sanctions ("Bundesexekution") and other forms of intervention ("Bundesintervention") in case a federal unit is unwilling or unable to comply with the principle of homogeneity.

In my presentation, I will briefly outline the rationale behind the principle and its implementing mechanisms from the point of view of (comparative) constitutional law, before discussing whether perhaps a comparable principle of minimum homogeneity regarding domestic constitutional orders is currently emerging in the international legal order. My point will be that, while any attempt at directly transplanting principles and mechanisms developed in domestic constitutional law to the realm of international (or even supranational) law is doomed to fail, the increasing convergence of domestic constitutions in many parts of the world can - at least in part - indeed be explained by international law's increasing concern with states' internal constitutional structures.

About the speaker

Dr Christian Pippan is Assistant Professor at the Institute of International Law and International Relations, University of Graz. He is Deputy Member of the Advisory Board for Development Co-operation of the State Government of Styria.

Share this event

When and where

1.00pm - 3.00pmWednesday 9th April 2014

AG02 College Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 4PB United Kingdom

Contact Details

Dr Ioannis Kalpouzos

Lecturer in Law

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom
020 7040 4122

Contact the organiser