The Court of Justice of the European Union as a media actor

This is a transcript of the oral presentation with which I introduced my paper for the conference The EU Court of Justice as a Relational Actor organised by Anna Wallerman Ghavanini at the University of Gothenburg, 16-17 December 2021. I was unable to attend personally, but the organisers kindly made arrangements for online participation. Thanks for having me. I will later develop the paper itself for publication. Thanks also to my discussant Erik Björling and my fellow participants for their encouraging and valuable comments.

CJEU Press Release letterhead (detail).

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When institutions disagree: looking behind constitutional competences

This is the text version of an online presentation that I gave on 7 October 2021 at a seminar organised by the Separation of Powers for 21st Century Europe (SepaRope) project. Thanks for having me! Usually the interrelations between the central political and legal institutions of a state are described through some form of ‘separation of powers’ doctrine. There are, of course, numerous variations to the doctrine, but they usually focus on the competences that constitutions award the respective institutions. So in its crudest form, a legislature passes laws that an executive has first drafted and then puts into effect, while the judiciary applies these laws in individual cases. However, a competence-focused approach to the doctrine has limitations. It will not be able to account for the more nuanced expressions of possible disagreement between the institutions. Is there, for instance, tension between the legislature’s intended political agenda and what the executive is willing to do about it? Is the judiciary satisfied with its relatively limited role in applying particular laws as opposed to interpreting them with broader discretionary powers? The limitations of the competence-focused approach arise from the liberal underpinnings that steer it towards models built on inter-institutional deliberation and consensus. My talk asked what these institutional interrelations would look like if our starting point was not something akin to political liberalism but, rather, agonism, that is, conflict and disagreement. Continue reading “When institutions disagree: looking behind constitutional competences”

Ari Hirvonen (1960-2021)

This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write.

Yesterday evening my beloved friend and cherished colleague Ari passed away. The emotions are still too raw to be eulogised into anything meaningful. But for those of you with whom we have stayed in touch through these digitised media, especially over the last few years, hopefully this short message will be enough for now.

Ari slept away peacefully with his loved ones by his side. He had battled with ill health for longer than most of us had realised. During his final days, Ari was generous enough to receive friends. He may have drifted in and out of consciousness, but during his better moments, he would clearly acknowledge our presence, maybe mumble a word or two, and smile faintly.

He will be so deeply missed.

Visualising academic work

The postscript to my earlier post on Peter Fitzpatrick reminded me of something that has been going on for quite a while now. When I was working for the Finnish Institute in London, I had a full set of design tools available on my desktop by default. And so I familiarised myself with the basics of image manipulation, graphic design, desktop publishing and web design. I don’t think that I really thought I would have any use for those autodidactically acquired skills later on, and in all truth, whatever I may have since done, has never had any utilitarian value. It has simply given me pleasure. And I’ve been grateful to my ‘clients’ who have allowed me to indulge myself and have been kind enough not to complain too much. Continue reading “Visualising academic work”

Tracing a friendship

In early January, I received an email from Shelby Fitzpatrick on a mailing list including Peter Fitzpatrick’s friends and colleagues. Peter was ill, and apparently there wasn’t much time left. Shelby asked for ‘thoughts and recollections; anything you feel like sharing would be a great boost to us’. The aim is to bring together facets of Peter’s life-long dedication to the academy and to document personal connections. Perhaps I should have done this earlier. But for whatever it’s worth.

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‘Eat me like a cannibal’: anthropophagic architecture as cultural criticism

This essay is once again part of a larger work in progress. But as I also tried to develop it into a self-standing paper for the ASLCH 2020 conference at Quinnipiac Law School, I thought that it would work as a blog, as well. You be the judge. As before, it draws on material that I’ve worked on earlier, and in a similar way, with a rather limited amount of material available in languages that I know, it’s again only ‘getting there’ discovering the nuances and finer details as I go along. Baby steps. If you prefer to download the longish manuscript as a pdf, you can find it here. Note: The final published essay is here, unfortunately behind a paywall. Continue reading “‘Eat me like a cannibal’: anthropophagic architecture as cultural criticism”

Walking with W.G. Sebald

This text is part of a longer paper that I’m currently working on and that I’ll be presenting at a couple of seminars over the spring (e.g. SLSA 2020 in Portsmouth). But I thought that it might work as a shorter piece on its own here in the blogosphere, as well. It continues my (perhaps misguided) self-reflexive engagements with ethnography and expands from a few lines towards the end of an earlier text. All comments are welcome, as usual. Note: The final article is available as open access here. 

WG Sebald
W.G. Sebald, circa 1997. Photo: Jerry Bauer

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The power of a ‘relatively activist’ judiciary

In my inaugural lecture from May 2017 (introduced in Finnish here), I tried to argue for a slightly modified notion of judicial power. Section 99 of the Constitution of Finland (731/1999) seems to understand a ‘separated’ judicial power as not much more than the courts’ exclusive duty and right to ‘administer justice’, that is, to apply the law in individual cases. This deceptively clear-cut definition was recently reduplicated in Article 3 of the Courts Act (673/2016) which, in turn, makes a direct reference to the powers of the judiciary as they are defined in the Constitution. There is little about the courts’ role in the general control of the constitutionality of the activities of the political branches, although Section 106 of the Constitution did specifically create a new duty for the courts to abstain from applying primary legislation that is ‘in evident conflict’ with the constitution. The Finnish tradition of constitutional review has traditionally emphasised the role of parliamentary preview preferring a more restraint understanding of judicial power.

Photo of anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller.
Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller (C) speaks to media as she leaves the Supreme Court after the ruling on the prorogation of parliament, in London, Britain, 24 September 2019. The Supreme Court ruled that the suspension of parliament by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unlawful. Photo: Neil Hall/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10422422n)

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