Contribution of the Year Award of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Constitutional Law Foundation was given to Anneli Albi

The Council of the Constitutional Law Foundation gave the first award of this type to Prof. Anneli Albi for editing a large-scale, two-volume book analysing the nature and functioning of Europe’s national constitutions. The award was announced at the Estonian Lawyers Congress on 8 October 2020.

The ‘Contribution of the Year’ award is given to a publication or achievement which, in the assessment of the Council, makes the most valuable contribution in the preceding or ongoing year to research in the field constitutional law. The size of the award is 5,000 EUR.

Anneli Albi, Professor of European Law at the University of Kent (UK), obtained her law degree from the University of Tartu and defended her PhD at the European University Institute in Florence in 2003. Prof. Albi is one of two Estonian legal scholars who have won the prestigious grant of the European Research Council (ERC).

The edited book ‘National Constitutions in European and Global Governance: Democracy, Rights, the Rule of Law’ (Springer, 2019) was prepared as one of the central outputs of the ERC 5-year, 1.2 million EUR grant ‘The Role of National Constitutions in European and Global Governance’.

The book contains overviews and analyses by leading constitutional law scholars from 28 EU Member States and, additionally, Switzerland. The chapter on Estonia was prepared by Madis Ernits, Carri Ginter, Saale Laos, Marje Allikmets, Paloma-Krõõt Tupay, Rene Värk and Andra Laurand. The book is co-edited with Dr Samo Bardutzky, Assistant Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.

The electronic version of the book is freely available (open access) on Springer website.

In the prevailing EU discourse, constitutions have predominantly come to be associated with the protection of sovereignty and national identity. The project of Prof. Albi shifts the spotlight to challenges which have arisen in relation to EU law from the perspective of constitutional provisions on fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy. The roots of the book lie, inter alia, in several cases in Estonia where such issues arose, for example cases regarding sugar fines on undertakings and on the Estonian state, cases regarding near-automatic extraditions under the European Arrest Warrant, and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) case.

From the book, it emerges that Europe’s national constitutions can broadly be divided into three groups:

  • Political constitutions (UK, Malta, Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Nordic constitutions);
  • post-totalitarian and post-authoritarian constitutions (Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary before 2010 and Poland before 2016); and
  • traditional legal constitutions (France, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Cyprus).

It emerged that conflicts with EU law have predominantly arisen in those Member States which have post-totalitarian or post-authoritarian constitutional cultures. In these countries, the constitutions have a strong binding force, the chapters on fundamental rights are detailed and extensive, the role of courts is stronger, and constitutional review is stringent. EU law tends to be oriented more towards effectiveness, the functioning of the single market, and teleological interpretation. The current direction of travel is towards autonomous, uniform, self-referential EU legal order. The book invites discussion on the possibilities to retain and uphold the constitutional traditions of the Member States. This direction of travel would perhaps have also helped to avoid Brexit, and thereby contribute to the stability in Europe as a whole.

On the basis of the national reports, a comprehensive comparative monograph is being completed. Invitations to share the research findings include an expert hearing at European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee meeting on the Future of Europe. Further information is available at the project website.