Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance

Compound Constitutions in Europe

Compound Constitutions in Europe is ACELG’s research programme for the years 2014 to 2018. It builds on its previous research programme (2009-2013), which was recognized by the Board of the University of Amsterdam as a focal point of research of the Law Faculty and the University. Section one introduces the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance. It highlights its distinctive approach to the study of EU law (methods), the societal and academic relevance of its research, and formulates its strategy to ensure the high quality of ACELG’s research and its continuity beyond 2018. Section two turns to substantive matters. It sets out the overarching conceptual framework and identifies the research question. Section three further develops the individual research perspectives pursued by ACELG researchers.

1. The Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance

The Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG) was established as a new Faculty Centre of Excellence in 2009. Since then it has been nationally and internationally recognized as a research centre that makes high level contributions to the academic and policy debate on legal and governance processes in Europe. ACELG focusses on mapping, understanding and critically reflecting upon the constitutional (legal, political and economic) evolution that has taken place, and is taking place, in the European Union, including in the context of the proximate constitutional orders of the EU Member States as well as that of public international law.

Methods: A distinctive approach to European law research

As a centre for European law and governance, ACELG adopts a distinctive approach to the analysis of European law. While our primary focus is legal research into the processes of integration within the European Union and the counter-tendencies it triggers, ACELG engages in research that considers legal phenomena in the context of practices, broader constitutional developments and shifts in governance in Europe, as well as in the wider structures of global governance. ACELG’s research thus combines an internal approach to legal studies with an external approach from the perspective of other disciplines and accordingly goes beyond analysing the core legal sources within the European legal order (the EU Treaties, secondary legislation and case law of the Court of Justice). Hence, both the object and the methods of ACELG’s research are distinct in that they go beyond the traditional legal analysis.

Societal and Academic Relevance and Scientific Quality

ACELG seeks to engage with topical issues but also to contribute to the scholarly and more general policy debates on relevant and fundamental topics. Researchers disseminate theoretical knowledge to legal practice, national and EU regulators, as well as the broader public. ACELG’s main focus in this regard remains informing policy makers and other stakeholders, both nationally and in Brussels. Interaction takes place not only directly, for example through small-scale expert roundtables and workshops and specific academic advice, as well as policy briefs and reports for policy makers in the national and EU context, but also indirectly, for example through targeted contributions to the public debate (for example, the Meijers Committee, Statewatch, and more). Insights from direct contact with different statkeholders, for example when ACELG researchers collect empirical data through interviews, immediately contribute to shaping the course of ACELG’s scientific inquiries. The insights Besides the more targeted interaction with policy makers, ACELG also engages with the wider public by way of public conferences and debates (for example, at Spui 21), ACELG’s own blog, open access academic contributions, as well as (occasional) media appearances. Furthermore, ACELG researchers sometimes undertake consultancy work for the private sector.

External Funding

Research within ACELG is also funded from external sources. Research grants and contracts have for example been awarded by the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), national government institutions and European institutions. ACELG’s success rate in this regard is good (two NWO personal research grants (Veni grants) awarded in consecutive years and a Rubicon grant young scholar with more applications in the pipe line) and growing as researchers widen their remit and focus to the European level (such as starter grants of the European Research Council (ERC) and Open Area Research Grants). In addition parts of the programme are embedded in international research networks (e.g. CLEER and ReNEUAL) and receive some extra funding in that context.

Strategy and Outlook

The ambition is of course to further consolidate ACELG’s track record, both in terms of academic quality and attracting external funding. Indeed, ACELG seeks actively to develop new projects in an on-going fashion, drawing from the interactions of the various research interests and from the need to take a more integral approach to processes and practices of European integration.

2. Compound Constitutions in Europe

The notion of Compound Constitutions refers to an understanding of the EU constitutional order as comprising several separate but complementary and interdependent constitutional components: the ‘EU constitution’, the constitutions of the Member States, and interlocking legal regimes at the international level, such as the European Convention of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the framework of the World Trade Organization. Moreover, Compound Constitutions also refers to the functional differentiation between the EU’s economic, political and social constitutions, as well as to their evolution and transformation over time, which translate into both integration and differentiation processes. The underlying core research question is: What are the shifts in authority and powers in this context and how should they be evaluated against a set of fundamental constitutional principles?

3. Specific Research Perspectives

Published by  ACELG

15 December 2015