Europe is looking for its raison d'être. The challenges posed by the Brexit chaos, by the nation-state undermining of the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, and by politically disenchanted protest movements such as the French Yellow Vests are to be met by ‘more Europe’. More Europe requires more efforts, above all for a European public sphere. This is where the ERC research project ReConFort (www.reconfort.eu) offers its own contribution, extending its conclusions concerning the communication dependency of historic constitutional processes to the future of the European Union.
Within the EU, the rule of law is of particular importance. The respect shown to the rule of law is the foundation of all the fundamental values listed in Article 2 TEU and all rights and obligations deriving from the treaties and from international law. The mechanism of Article 7 TEU, however, is not operated as an ‘aseptic’ sanction. Rather, it is to be operated in conjunction with a ‘continuous communication of the common values in and with participation of public sphere.’ (COM/2003/0606) This communication dependency is what ReConFort stands for.
Two centuries ago, the protagonists of the early European constitutionalism were fully aware of the necessity of a participating public as vital part of constitutional processes. To them, the key categories of constitutional discourses – the concepts of national or constituent sovereignty, the precedence of constitution, the judiciary acting and existing as a constituted power in its own right, and the justiciability of politics and rule of law – were of primary importance not only to theorists but to those involved in the constitutional processes. Today, as then, these concepts are not and should not be merely of isolated academic interest in the proverbial faraway ivory tower. Rather, they provide the ‘epitomes’ of modern constitutional issues, whose public discursive formation builds up a unique European source of identification, and is at the heart of the European common identity.
Constitutional texts did not statically fix the legal relations of the pouvoirs constitués, but were insteadevolutionary results of the interplay of the drafting process, text, societal context, the political practice, and the constitutional interpretation. In the same way, the rule of law, which forms the basis of European legality and the concept of justice, and which requires that ‘all political society’ (Art. 2, also Art. 16) is built on the ‘natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man’ (Preface to the French Declaration of the Rights of Men 1789), is not an immutable and invulnerable truth forged from iron or carved into stone. It required communication, and it must still be communicated today. The French and American revolutionaries of the late eighteenth century were convinced of this, having been fully aware that legitimacy is created through consent and the positive agreement of the citizens. Their ‘belief in sovereignty’ went along with the ‘religious affinities’ in the preambles of early constitutionalism. It would be incorrect to understand such an affinity as a recourse of the constituents to divine authority for writing a constitution. Rather, it crucially meant the communication of these central rule of law bases as philosophical truths with a claim to eternal validity, to be honoured but also to be promoted and defended.
Specified rule of law standards, explained in their common European historical origins, can serve as the nucleus of the discourses concerning what separates us and what unites us. The lessons of the last century have shown us that there is no recourse to making the nation great again; nationalists have nothing to offer Europe except its destruction. The human longing for agency (and, as the Brexiteers have vocally demonstrated, the desire to ‘take back control’ that is believed lost) needs appropriate answers and, after the digital revolution, the political establishment of the national democracies has thus far failed to provide them. This is Europe’s chance, as well as its responsibility: to stand up and declare, clearly and unequivocally, that there will not be any answers on a national level, and to prepare the ground for an overall commitment to ‘more Europe.’
What unites us Europeans – what has made Europe so attractive for the generations of young African and Asian migrants in particular, who have come to Europe with hopes and dreams of building new lives – is the fact that we share common values: a community of peace, based on democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. These common values, however, must not be allowed to wither; they require protection and promotion. The European Commission has stated that the respect for common European values needs a public discourse, and that this discourse must be aware of the important monitoring role of civil societies, both in protecting and in promoting the rule of law and fundamental rights.
The European Union is first and foremost a Union of the rule of law. Far beyond the academic richness of theoretical explanations, the Union is governed by the rule of law in a very literal sense: it is the European Court of Justice that has offered the United Kingdom the ‘legal trick’ of a unilateral withdrawal of its Art. 50 trigger to leave. The historically-grown trust in the law to be the last resort in insolvable conflicts, as the claims for the legally competent judge in the religious clashes of the sixteenth and seventeenth century had exemplified, is that which speaks to the hard core of the Union’s identity. Thus, the public awareness of the European heritage of the rule of law enables every citizen to identify with it. To reinvigorate, animate and vitalise the identification with the rule of law overcomes the notorious shortfall of a true popular identificatory movement, had the Union merely stood for economic integration of the internal market, conveyed primarily through market freedoms. Thereby, the common constitutional traditions reveal the constitutive functional conditions of a European public sphere and allow the development of a ‘discursive formation of opinion and will by an (European) audience of citizens’, as Habermas has put it, as a prerequisite for democracy (Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit - Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft, p. 38).
A new, deeper understanding of the historical foundations of our common constitutional heritage will empower national and EU stakeholders to solve the contemporary issues of the European integration. Europe’s future depends on an informed public discussion. It is ReConFort’s eagerness to contribute to this.
The EU Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) has published an article on the results of the ReConFort project:
You can find the full article here:
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig gave a lecture at Schloss Ludwigsthal on the 12th of May 2018 on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the "Oath on the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bavaria 1818". Analysing constitutional narratives in visual art of the early nineteenth century, the follow up-lecture on the ReConFort overall topic of Constitution and Communication concentrated on the artists' eyewitness of the oaths on constitutions as culminating symbolic monments of bringing the constitution not only into legal life, but to render its acceptance and recognition in everybody's physical life visually perceptible. Far beyond David's well-known Tennis Court Oath (study persevered in the Parisian Louvre) there seems to be a specific iconography of the constitutional oath as the decisive moment to communicate the constitution's coming into force to the population. Starting from the supraporte depiction by an unknown artist (before 1840) in the former mansion house of the glass manufacturer Abele in Ludwigsthal/Bavarian forest near Passau, Prof. Müßig analyzed constitutional idiomatic in art history (also including the Wittelbach cycle, as in the photo above) with particular attention to the depicted incompatibilities in early European constitutionalism.
Lecture Programme 12th of May 2018, 19.30
- Welcome by the organizers
- Impulse lecture and moderation: Prof. Dr. Hannelore Putz
- Constitution and Communication - The iconography of the constitutional oath as a reflection of incompatibilities in European constitutionalism, Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig
- General Graf Heinrich LII. Reuß-Köstritz - a contemporary witness of the young Bavarian royalty Prof. Dr. Dr. Andreas Nerlich
Detailed information can be found here: https://www.wir-feiern.bayern/veranstaltungen/3020/
From the 15th - 17th February 2018, the ReConFort project had its final conference in Toruń Poland.
15th February 2018, Thursday
Law Faculty of the Nicolaus Copernicus University, Law and Administration Faculty, Bojarskiego Street 3, Faculty Council Room, Nr 6 http://www.law.umk.pl/#42
- Greeting by the Dean of Faculty
- Greeting by the Head of the Chair of the History of Political-Legal Doctrines and the German Law, Prof.Dr hab. Danuta Janicka and Prof. Dr. Stanislaw Salmonowicz
- Welcome by the Principal Investigator Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig, "Kopernikus and ReConFort"
Lectures of conference participants:
Tomasz Kucharski (Postdoc, Nicolaus Copernicus University), “Public treasury settlements” and their acceptance by the General Diet in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1791). Purely feudal institution whether a great step towards modern parliamentary control on the performance of the budget act by the government?
Anna Tarnowska (Postdoc, Nicolaus Copernicus University, ReConFort University Passau), „Willing that the Council of Guardians should be responsible to the Nation for their action…”. The problem of justiciability of power in the era of Polish May Constitution 1791
Lectures of the participants, discussion
Michał Gałędek (University Gdańsk), The sovereignty and the ministerial responsibility in the course of work on the constitution for the Kingdom of Poland, 1814-1815
Marcin Byczyk (Postdoc, University Passau), The fiction of ministers’ accountability in the Kingdom of Poland (1815-1830)
Afternoon lectures of the participants, discussion
Gonzague Prod Homme (University Passau), Rousseau’s project of a constitution for Poland and his attempt to achieve a moral constitution
Anna Klimaszewska (University Gdańsk), La prise à partie in the French Code of civil procedure of 1806 and the question of the extent of the legal responsibility of the judge
16th February 2018, Friday
Further workshop, lectures of the participants, discussion
Joachim Kummer / Franziska Meyer (ReConFort, University Passau), Ministerial accountability and constitutional jurisdiction in 19th century Germany
Prof. Steffen Schlinker (University Passau / University Tallinn), Justiciability of politics in the Kingdom Hannover between 1814 and 1866
Giuseppe Mecca (Postdoc, University Passau), Ministerial Responsibility as Accountability of the Rulers towards the Governed in 19th century Italy
Lectures of the participants, final discussion
Bodie A. Ashton (ReConFort, University Passau), Subjects of our most gracious Majesty.’ Setting up Legal Accountability in a ‘Free’ Colonial State: Constitutionalisation and Constitutional Practice in South Australia Colony
Armin Gerl (University Passau), ReConFort Open Database – Digitisation Process, Cooperations, and sustainable operability
Prof. Ulrike Müßig (ReConFort PI, University Passau), General summary and further research perspectives – How to keep the ReConFort network alive
Photo: Krzysztof Żółtowski, Stowarzyszenie Toruńskie Spacery Fotograficzne.
From 1st to 4rd of June 2017 the Journées Internationales de la Société d’Histoire du Droit visited the Faculté de Droit de Tours. The main topic of the conference was “La Responsabilité“. The Principal Investigator of ReConFort, Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig, being a member of the Société d’Histoire du Droit, visited the conference and presented the research results of ReConFort with her presentation “Responsabilité légale du juge”. The pictures below show the reception at the Auditorium of the Bibliotheèque Municipale, the meeting and the Gala Dinner at the Château Royal d’Amboise.
The video of the presentation “Responsabilité légale du juge” of the Principal Investigator of ReConFort, Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig, can be found here:
On the 22nd of February 2017, the Principal Investigator of ReConFort Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig gave a presentation on “National Sovereignty in Early European Constitutionalism” at the Royal College of Spain (Real Collegio Mayor de San Clemente de los Españoles) in Bologna, Italy on the invitation of Prof. Dr. Juan J. Gutierrez Alonso. The presentation was attended by the doctoral students of the Royal College and members of the ReConFort research team. The Royal College is supporting the early careers of the best Spanish doctoral student of different disciplines and hosts them at its premises.
The Royal College of Spain in Bologna probably is the only surviving mediaeval college on the continent, comparable to the Cambridge and Oxford model. Out of former twenty-one foundations in the city of Bologna, only the Spanish College survived. Not only due to these facts, this academic institution situated between the Via del Collegio di Spagna and the Via Urbana takes an important position within European transboundary academic tradition. Cardinal Gil Álvarez Carrillo de Albornoz established the statutes of the college only years before his death in 1367 and is considered to be the College’s founder. Later – in 1530 – Charles V conferred his royal patronage to this academic institution. Today, the College is a special example of the shared European cultural heritage and was honored by the Europa Nostra Award in 2012.
From 19. – 21. September 2016 the Mid-Term Conference of ReConFort was hosted at the University of Passau and at the premises of the Siemens Foundation in Munich. The topic of the conference was “On the Way to Juridifcation by Constitution – Sovereignty Issues in Constitutional History”. Besides the research team, the conference was attended by the International Advisory Board and visiting researchers from Australia, Belgium, Italy and Poland. In addition, the lectures had also been open to advanced students.
On Monday, the participants were welcomed by the President of the University of Passau Prof. Fr. Carola Jungwirth and the Dean of the Faculty of Law Prof. Dr. Hans Georg Dederer. The first day of the conference included talks by Dr. Stefan Huygebaert (Research Foundation Flanders, BE), Dr. Brecht Deseure (ReConFort, BE), Dr. Giuseppe Mecca (ReConFort, IT), Matteo Zamboni (Mailand, IT), Prof. Dr. Raf Geenens and Nora Timmermans (both Leuven, BE). The final talk of the day was given by the Principal Investigator of the ReConFort project Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig.
In the evening, the participants were welcomed by the Major of the Baroque city Schärding (AT) Franz Angerer and received a historic guided tour around the city by Mario Puhane.
On Tuesday, the lectures continued with presentations by Dr. Florian Muß (Judge AG Oldenburg in Holstein, DE), Dr. Ania Tarnowska (ReConFort, PL), Dr. Marcin Byczyk (ReConFort, PL), Joachim Kummer, Franziska Meyer (both ReConFort, DE), Valerie von Poten (Student at the University of Passau) and Marius Müller (Student Assistant, Chair of Prof. Müßig, DE). Before the final talk of Dr. Bodie Ashton (Adelaide, AU), Armin Gerl (ReConFort, Chair of Prof. Kosch, DE) introduced the audience to the upcoming ReConFort Open Access Database.
On Wednesday, the last day of the conference, the participants headed to Nymphenburg Castle in Munich and received a guided tour around the Nymphenburg gardens by Marius Müller, focusing on architecture as form of constitutional communication. After lunch, all participants were welcomed at the premises of the Siemens Foundation.
As instrumental introduction Barbara Blumenstingl and Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig presented different transverse flute pieces before the finals talks of the conference were given by Dr. John Allison (Fellow of Queens’ College Cambridge) – “The Westminster Parliament’s Formal Sovereignty in Britain and Europe from a Historical Perspective” and Prof. Dr. Luigi Lacchè (Rector of the University of Macerata and Member of the ReConFort Advisory Board) – “The Sovereignty Dispute in a European Perspective. Force, Reason or Constitution”.
The conference ended with a reception hosted by the Siemens foundation, providing the possibility for further talks and discussion on the topics of the last days.
Laura R. Rathmanner has published a Conference Report in the "Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht" wich can be found here:
The next ReConFort conference will be held at Toruń, Poland in February 2018.
Keynote of the PI (Constitutional Instrumentalisation of Ancient Rights. From ‘Golden Liberty’ to ‘Golden Age’) and contributions of ReConFort team members to the 4th ESCLH Conference 2016 in Gdańsk-Gdynia
Culture, Identity and Legal Instrumentalism, 28 June till 1 July 2016.
The presentation of Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig is available here:
Dealing with communication dependencies of historic constitutions the Research project ReConFort reconsiders the national constitutional discourses of the 19th century. The discovered sources confirm that it is the normativity which is the novelty of the modern constitutional concept arisen out of the American and the French Revolutions at the end of the 18th century. Neither governmental legitimation nor legal binding of political authority were new terms compared to the old constitutional semantics. Also the subordination of legislative assemblies remains on the traditional ground of the specific importance of fundamental laws which were higher‑ranking than ordinary laws.
It was the break with the English mother country that required a new legal fixture of the (whole) political order. Constitution now connotes a legal text, fixing the political order into a legal order: ‘the basis and foundation of government’, in the initiating wording of the Virginia Bill of Rights of June 12, 1776. The normativity is expressed by the positivation in one unified constitutional text. The textual seclusiveness stands for the differentiation between constitutional law and ordinary legislature. The old constitutional semantics knew particularly important, fundamental laws, but not the idea of a unified law, which is a gauge for the legitimacy of all other law and which the American resistance against Westminster produced 1776. This happened in the American effort to justify the revolution as legitimate breach of law. The taxation of the colonies by Westminster Parliament without the consent of the inhabitants (Sugar Act 1764; Stamp Act 1765) was 'unconstitutional', while the resistance of the colonies was considered ‘constitutional’.
Central consequence of the new normativity is the precedence of the constitution, which was the topic of the ReConFort-conference at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, March 14, 2016. The precedence of constitution is next to the topoi national/constitutional sovereignty, accountability of politics and the judiciary as constituted power one of the key categories, which structures the archival work of the international post-doc group and the ongoing interdisciplinary development of the open access database.
The forthcoming Springer-volume (Studies in the History of Law and Justice) explains national sovereignty as cross-borderly used legal starting point of the constituting process. All references to national sovereignty mark the process of juridification of sovereigntyby means of the constitution. In the Polish May Constitution 1791 national sovereignty formulates a compromise between the old aristocratic noblemen’ privileges and liberal ideas of representation. National sovereignty in the Spanish Cádiz Constitution 1812 is connected to the anti-Napoleonic context of the constitutional process. The general and extraordinary Cortes’ claim to the constituent power by virtue of the recourse to national sovereignty is influenced by late scholastical concepts and combines the supralegal limitations for the royal government with the historical legitimization of the Cádiz constitution by the old fundamental laws of the Monarchy. The revolutionary overcoming of the French Charte Constitutionelle 1814 in the July Revolution 1830 led to a European-wide constitutional movement, whose connection with national struggles for freedom, invigorated the people and its representation as constitutional factors.
Unlike the French model the Constitution of Belgium 1831 was not negotiated with the monarch, but freely proclaimed by a national congress in its own right. In the octroi of the Piedmontese Statuto Albertino 1848, the constituent act of granting the fundamental law was communicated to rationalize the old royal sacredness of the absolute monarchy and was meant to avoid any scope for the differentiation between pouvoir constituant and pouvoir constitué. The improvised parliamentarism in the constitutional debates of the Frankfurt National Assembly 1848/49 corresponded with the openness of the “Sovereignty of the Nation” whereby Heinrich von Gagern inaugurated the Paulskirchen-assembly. This avowal to the singular and unlimited pouvoir constituant of a not existant German nation could not make sense as a programmatic claim to self-government, but reflected the indecisiveness of the European post-kantian liberalism between monarchical and popular sovereignty.
Presentations by the Rt Hon Lord Robert Reed (UK Supreme Court London) and Prof. Gerald Stourzh (Vienna) were followed by the joint lecture of the principal investigator Prof. Ulrike Müssig (ReConFort/Passau) and Dr. Shavana Musa (ReConFort/Manchester). The comparative context of the history of precedence of constitution as a keystone of modern constitutionalism was enriched by the papers of Dr. Frederik Dhondt (Brussels/Ghent-FWO), Dr. Sebastiaan Vandenbogaerde (Ghent), Prof. Eirik Holmøyvik (Bergen): and Prof. Thomas Olechowski (Vienna). The conference was moderated by Prof. Dirk Heirbaut and Prof. Dave De ruysscher in front of an international audience.
During the days that followed, the ReConFort team continued its internal discussion upon the invitation of the Bavarian Research Alliance at the premises of the DLR and the Leibnitz Association. The work in progress - presentations by Dr. Brecht Deseure, Joachim Kummer, Dr. Giuseppe Mecca, Franziska Meyer and Dr. Ania Tarnowska - focused on the precedence of constitution on the historic developments of the targeted countries.
On 16th March,, the team members of ReConFort took a guided tour in the European Parliament and met the MEP Dr. Angelika Niebler for lunch. She was introduced to the central points of the research project. She consequently emphasized the importance of the project for the current European integration process.
In the afternoon, ReConFort visited the Bibliothèque royale de Belgique as one of its cooperating partners in the creation of a digitalized open access database. The head of the digitalization department, Frédéric Lemmers, welcomed the team, discussed the challenges of digital humanities and outlined the cornerstones of the cooperation.
On 17th March, the ReConFort team was hosted at the Bavarian Representation in Brussels. For the evening the team visited the event ‘Stability & Solidarity: Europe's Fragile Balance in the Mirror of Research’ organized by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
The team will meet again for the mid-term summer meeting in Passau and Munich, September 2016. The next annual meeting abroad will be in Torun (Poland) in 2017.
From the 4th to the 6th of November, the ReconFort-team met for its regular conference in Passau.
The meeting focused on the final discussion of the articles for the volume "ReConFort I: National Sovereignty". In addition the outline of the future research and the next meeting in Brussel were planned. The research team discussed the outline of the next research focus "presedence of constitution" and the crucial points of the differentiation between constituent body and legislative body, the written crystallization of the constitution, the supremacy of the consitution and the constitutional amendments.
For the first time, the new British team member Shavana Musa was taking part in the meeting and introduced herself to the team. She will support the overall research and will investigate the impact of British constitutional history on the targeted constitutional movements. Her research will provide insight into the British discourse surrounding the Spanish Cortes; the Polish Partitions; the Italian Subalpine Parliament and the Belgian National Congress.
Regarding the planned ReConFort open-access web database, Armin Gerl presented the current state of development and introduced the researchers to the details of the implementation process of the various documents.
The principal investigator Prof. Müßig gave a presentation on the Norwegian Eidsvoll Constitution as a masterpiece of Evolutionary Constitutional Formation and its relevance for the targeted ReConFort countries.
The Team will meet again in March 2016 in Brussels.
From the 9th to the 11th of march 2015 the ReConFort team was invited by the University of Macerata (Università degli Studi di Macerata) in Italy which has specialised in humanities since its beginnigs in the 13th century . The spring conference was organized by the Italian ReConFort-post doc Dr. Giuseppe Mecca.
The topic of the meeting was the term of “national sovereignty” in the constitutional formation processes of the targeted countries. The team members from Belgium, Italy, Germany, Poland and Spain presented their research results in elaborated papers and discussed them with the group and the principal investigator Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig.
On Monday morning the team was welcomed by the Rector of the University Prof. Dr. Luigi Lacchè, professor of Legal History at the Department of Law of the University of Macerata and member of the International Advisory Board of the ReConFort project. In his short address he stressed the importance of the research field of comparative constitutional history and the interests of the University of Macerata in being part of European research cooperations. At Monday afternoon the ReConFort team was invited to a guided tour around the city of Macerata including visits of the Basilica Santa Maria della Misericordia, the open air opera Sferisterio and the museum of modern art Palazzo Ricci.
On Tuesday march 10, 2015 the conference continued and culminated into guided tours around the historic libraries of the city (Studi Storici Library and Mozzi-Borgetti Library), offering the ReConFort team valuable research opportunities. In the late afternoon the PI Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig was welcomed at the grand Aula Magna of the University by the Rector of the University Prof. Dr. Luigi Lacchè, the dean of the faculty of law Prof. Dr. Ermanno Calzolaio and the legal historian Prof. Dr. Massimo Meccarelli. Prof. Müßig presented a well observed lecture on the comparative aspects of the national sovereignty in 18th and 19th century Europe (Aspetti comparativi della sovranità nazionale nell’Europa nel XVIII e XIX secolo) to a vast audience composed out of members of the faculty, post-docs and students. The day ended with a joint dinner of the members of the faculty of Law and the ReConFort team.
On the last day of the meeting in Macerata the group discussed the overall results of the meeting, future research goals and plans for publications, before the PI set off for Rome on the Wednesday evening to continue research in the senate library on invitation of the President Dr. Giuseppe Filippetta. The team will meet again for the next autumn conference in Passau from 4th to 6th november 2015.
On the occasion of the meeting of the ReConFort Team in Macerata (Italy) the journal ControCampus published an article on the ReConFort project.
You can read the article here:
From the 4th to the 7th of august the ReConFort team has met again at the University of Passau. The participants from Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain discussed the results already achieved and the future steps to take.
Each of the post-docs presented the results and the problems being found during the work in the past months. The following discussion under the direction of the principal investigator Prof. Dr. Müßig focused on solutions and new ideas for each country and the historical archival work.
On Monday, the research team was introduced to the president and the chancellor of the University of Passau, Prof. Dr. Burkhardt Freitag and Dr. Andrea Bör, to whom they presented the project.
The upcoming ReConFort database was the main topic on Tuesday. Stella Stars presented a first draft of the structure of database which then was discussed by the whole group. In the evening the ReConFort team and the team of the chair of Civil Law, German and European Legal History met for a barbecue at the shores of the river Inn and used the occasion the get to know each other. The meeting was also visited by padre Tangen who, together with the Marist fathers, has been supporting the research project from the first day on, accommodating the post-docs during their stays in Passau.
On the last day of the meeting the group was visited by Prof. Kittisak Prokati from the Thammasat University (Bangkok, Thailand) and was given a presentation by Marie-Charlotte Riehl on the concept of sovereignty during the period of the provisional government in France 1814.
The german TV-channel BR-alpha has broadcasted a portrait of Prof. Müßig and her work as principal investigator in the ReConFort project on the 17th of June 2014.
The video "ERC grant holder Prof. Dr. Müßig" can be wachted here:
A road map to a new understanding of constitution
An euphoric mood dominates after the end of the five day meeting in the conference room at the third floor of the Juridicum in Passau. There, the ReConFort project (Reconsidering Constitutional Formation, Constitutional Communication by Drafting, Practice and Interpretation in 18th and 19th Century Europe) officially started in March 2014 under the supervision of Prof. Ulrike Müßig. For five days, the scientists Katrin Brösicke (University of Passau), Brecht Deseure (Free University of Brussels), Guiseppe Mecca (University of Macerata), Antonio Sánchez-Aranda (University of Granada), Ania Tarnowska (Nicolaus-Copernicus University of Toruń), and the members of the advisory board (Prof. Dr. Ignacio Czeghun and Prof. Dr. Harald Kosch) had the opportunity to debate the first steps on the way to a new understanding of the European constitutional history. In the end, there shall be the answer to the question, how the constitutional discourse was generated in 18th and 19th century.
The visit of the cathedral site office at Passau, which lead the team at the top of the St. Stephan's cathedral of Passau, already indicated, that the scientists want to attain high results.
The debates of the kick-off meeting focused on the “communicative power” of a constitution.Given the filter-function of a constitution between politics and law the value-driven terms of constitutions cannot be considered fixed at any time. Their legal interpretation only succeeds in correspondence with the range of historical experience, which has been translated into constitutional language. There are always socio-historical circumstances, in which the protagonists use the historical consensus of the leading class for claiming a legal “first beginning”. Therefore, a better understanding of the interrelations between constitution and “discourse” is the core center of ReConFort.
At the end of the kick-off meeting the ReConFort team members agreed to start with a profound study and systematic analysis of constitutional documents in combination with reflective documents of acting political stakeholders and documents of a wider private and public constitutional “discourse”. The targeted approach will be three-staged: A. – Constitutions and materials (constitutional drafts or official stenographic records of constitutional debates) have to be assessed, collected, digitalised and finally edited including an English translation (of key sources). B. – Relevant cross-border private correspondences of protagonists upon constitutional affairs will be discovered (as mainly inedited or even unknown), collected, translated and analysed. C. – Publicist activities of major constitutional protagonists (including exile literature) and regional/national and cross-border constitutional journalism in public media.