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Armin von Bogdandy, Co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg: Law is about relations

4 noiembrie 2022 | Alina MATEI

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Secţiuni: Articole, Dreptul Uniunii Europene, Interviuri, Universitaria
Alina Matei

Alina Matei

Armin von Bogdandy

Armin von Bogdandy

Alina Matei: Thank you, Professor Armin von Bogdandy, Co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, for dedicating some of your time to this interview and to our readers. The Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg does not need effects, but I still wonder whether it is situated on a hill or in a valley? Apart from that, what are the three mains features of the Institute?

Armin von Bogdandy: It is situated where Heidelberg meets the Rhine valley, in the part of the city where much of the frontier research in the life sciences is taking place. Like them, we are oriented towards the future, not backwards towards romantics.

The first main feature is that the Institute is dedicated to basic research. Apart from all other implications, this certainly means curiosity-driven research. We feel passionate about our topics and are free to choose them ourselves. A second feature is that we serve the worldwide public-law community of academics by welcoming many guest researchers at our institute and investing huge sums in our library to cover all fields of public law, even those not central to our research. We as well profit from the many visiting scholars as they play an important role in making this institute a stimulating place of encounter. As third feature, I would like to mention that many of us are steeped in the German tradition of public law, one that goes back to the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire). It is a tradition deeply characterized and marked by German history, in particular by decisions and paths taken in the last century.

Alina Matei: The Institute’s projects are fascinating: They range for example, from the Institute’s Encyclopedia of Public International Law to Global Animal Law. What is the purpose of all the projects carried out within the Institute?

Armin von Bogdandy: Each project pursues the specific purpose of the scholar who is conducting that research. But overall, the purpose is to satisfy the scientific curiosity that stands behind the research and the wish to make a visible contribution to the field. Most scholars also aim to have some impact on legal practice and sometimes even on politics, hoping to push society along a path that is considered to be the right one.

Alina Matei: What is the ratio behind the purviews of national judges and of judges of the international/supranational courts (from ECHR, CJEU, TEU), respectively. Do you think this ratio has changed over time?

Armin von Bogdandy: I understand that you ask about the functions of judges. When it comes to the functions of apex judges in European society, i.e., those at the national supreme courts, at the constitutional courts, at the CJEU and the ECHR, we see that today they do, and have to do, much more than dispute resolution, which is often thought to have been their only role in the past. Today, they also engage in law making by setting precedents, they provide legitimacy to the institutions they control, they engage in intense interaction with other courts to be a visible force in the development of European law. While some traditional voices think that any function beyond dispute settlement is ultra vires, I think that a complex and free society needs courts that fulfil these various functions. That does not mean that they always get it right. Indeed, a main role of legal scholarship is to be a critic of the judges and their work.

Alina Matei: What can you tell us about the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union, from the perspective of scientific research?

Armin von Bogdandy: The European Court of Justice is an important court, so it is a worthwhile topic of academic research. If you want a more daring answer: the European Court of Justice has played and plays a crucial role in forming European society as we know it today. In my understanding, 70 years of European integration have led to the emergence, solidification and even democratization of a European society. This is not just my fantasy, but a statement and project of the 27 Member States anchored in article 2 of the EU Treaty. Without the case law of the European Court of Justice, one can hardly imagine that European society. But this is just one of the many ways how academics can look at this court. There are others who see the court as an agent of a neo-liberal undoing of social achievements.

Alina Matei: What is your view on the European legal order? What kind of relationships does it establish?

Armin von Bogdandy: The European legal order is, at the most abstract level, the network of formalized normative expectations on which European society operates and thrives. As European society is pluralistic, the European legal order develops many different kinds of relationships. On a systemic level, I argue that the European legal order has been the first in European modernity to give the individual a transnational legal position against public authority. It has brought true emancipation.

Alina Matei: Where should the line be drawn for interpreting national law in accordance with EU law? Does national law stand up to EU law or is it even a dismantling of it?

Armin von Bogdandy: European law is more than just European Union law. It also consists of the European Convention on human rights as well as, importantly, domestic law that participates in the processes of European society. National law is not the antagonist to nor ‘the Other’ of European law, but an integral part of it. For that reason, these two bodies of law should be interpreted as reinforcing each other in that common enterprise. There is an argument to be made that this stops when national constitutional identity is concerned. But this proviso refers only to very exceptional situations. No national court which has applied that proviso so far has convinced me that there was a good reason for doing so.

Alina Matei: Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU, consolidate version) lists the values on which the Union is founded: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the role of law and human rights. Why is dignity before freedom?

Armin von Bogdandy: You might know that this has not always been the case. In a former version, the Treaty on European Union listed the values differently. I think that the current listing corresponds to a continental European idea that human dignity is the ultimate value. One philosophical tradition that explains this primacy goes back to Immanuel Kant, and many politicians and scholars feel committed to that tradition.

Alina Matei: Well-known professors from Romania – such as Professor Camelia Toader, Professor Bogdan Iancu or Professor Radu Catană – have done internships at Max Planck Institutes (in Heidelberg as well as in Hamburg, Freiburg, Munich and Frankfurt). What advice do you have for Romanian lawyers who would like to enter this academic environment?

Armin von Bogdandy: These professors have not done internships, they have been guests. We do have an internship programme that is open to advanced students who wish to assist members of the Institute in their research projects for some months. Professors can join Max Planck Institutes as guests. We are very happy to host these researchers as they enrich the Institute. There are many ways for financing such a visit. The most important German institutions that support research stays such as these are the Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) for younger scholars and the Humboldt-Foundation for more advanced ones.

Alina Matei: You have recently been in Romania for the awarding ceremony of the Doctor Honoris Causa title of the University of Bucharest. This title joins a long list of other accolades. What does the Romanian distinction represent to you?

Armin von Bogdandy: It means a lot to me in many respects. The University of Bucharest is a renowned university in an important country of the European Union. To see it recognize my work is gratifying. Moreover, I understand it as a boost to the links between my institution and Rumanian ones with respect to the development of European law. In a way, one could say that it itself is a testament to thickening European society. Not least, much of the future of public law in Europe depends on developments in central and eastern European countries. Receiving this distinction shows me that I am somehow involved in these processes.

Alina Matei: What is European law similar to? Which the hills of Heidelberg or the corridors of the CJEU building, where do we find a Rodin statue and a painting by the Romanian Ion Jalea?

Armin von Bogdandy: Law is about relations, just as cities and streets are about relations. So, I visualize European law with the map of the Ruhr area.

It is a confusing map, nothing like Paris, or London, or Budapest, or Bucharest. However, it is in regard to this confusion that it mirrors much of polycentric European law. Moreover, it is a map of a region that many despise, as many despise European law. Most importantly, the Ruhr region is the one European megacity that continues to be inclusive in the sense that it has not been reduced to a playground for the rich or young, but accommodates citizens from all kinds of different backgrounds.

Alina Matei: A message, please, for the readers of J.

Armin von Bogdandy: The German weekly Spiegel published on July 10, 2015 an Article titled “Der letzte Europäer” (The last European). It documents the journey of a Rumanian driver who, in just three days with just a few hours of sleep, shuttles people and materials from Bucharest to Lisbon. Without wanting to ignore the staggering inequalities and hardships it uncovers, the piece shows outstanding tenacity that contributes to the construction of Europe while pursuing a dream for his family. Keep that tenacity.

Alina Matei: Thank you very much for this interview!

Armin von Bogdandy: Thank you!

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