The original ReConFort research program began in 2014. Its objectives, including the compilation of an open-access database of historical European constitutional documents, have been completed successfully. This does not mean that the ReConFort team’s work is done, and we are far from finished with the topic. Addressing the research questions of the project has only led to countless new, previously unexplored avenues of inquiry. ReConFort focused on the development of constitutions; our attention now turns to the content of those constitutions. What are common aspects of European constitutions, reflecting shared values and beliefs that extend across geopolitical borders? Conversely, what values are unique to individual constitutions, which are emphasised for greater effect, and why?
Here, perhaps the most notable is the idea of ‘human dignity.’ The best known example of this is in the very first paragraph of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) of 1949: Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar (‘Human dignity is inviolable’). Yet its origins as a touchstone of European civil society predate the Basic Law by decades, even centuries. How much value is placed on human dignity in other contemporary constitutions? Are freedom, equality, and human dignity synonymous, or do they stand for different and sometimes divergent goals? As Europe faces unprecedented challenges as a result of refugee crises, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the reemergence of a reactionary extreme right, and now with the additional challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the meaning of the individual finds itself coinciding, competing, and contrasting with the interests of the collective. As always, if we are to look for answers to contemporary questions, we must first look to the past for their origins.
Stay tuned for more information on this subject here and, if you’re interested in our past research, be sure to visit our open-access database at http://sources.reconfort.eu for more details.