The newly founded ICON-S Benelux Chapter will organize its Inaugural Conference on 26-27 October 2023. The conference will take place in Maastricht (NL), hosted by Maastricht University – Faculty of Law, with a fully in-person program of panels and keynote sessions. The overarching theme of the conference is Crises, Challenges, and the Future of Public Law.
In recent years, crises seem to have been succeeding at a rapid pace globally, as well as in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg: the financial and migration crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are just some examples of recent events that have had profound and tragic consequences for our societies. At the same time, new challenges have also emerged for European and national public law, such as those raised by the increasing digitalization of all branches of human activities. These crises and challenges have put pressure on the institutional arrangements of public governance in different ways.
For example, in Belgium, debates rage as to whether Belgian complex federal arrangements are fit for tackling crises such as a pandemic or the challenge of climate change, and as to what should be the respective roles of Parliament and the executive in these contexts. The role of judges and their legitimacy in making decisions with substantial policy consequences are also increasingly debated, as reflected in the discussions around the role of the Belgian Constitutional Court in the protection of socio-economic rights.
A similar trend can be observed in the Netherlands. The COVID-19 crisis exposed compelling constitutional tensions in the Netherlands. The Dutch response to the pandemic provoked debates on the legitimacy of decentralized emergency regulations, the parliamentary oversight and judicial control over the measures adopted by the Dutch government, and the prominent role of public health experts in shaping COVID-19 policies. The ongoing nitrogen debate in the Netherlands also poses complex issues from a public law perspective. In 2019, the Council of State declared that the Dutch nitrogen policy was not in line with the Habitats Directive. Since then, there is a heated discussion not only on the concrete strategies to reduce nitrogen emissions but also on the constitutional challenges which may prevent the Netherlands from effectively tackling this urgent problem.
In Luxembourg, the period coincides with the adoption of a new constitution after 175 years and many amendments of the old one being replaced. Will it prove capable of weathering the new storm?
For all topics, the EU dimension cannot be ignored. In the Benelux approach, European multi-level systems play a vital role in framing the legal responses. Likewise, international institutions have also been put in the spotlight. As our crises and challenges extend beyond national borders, questions have emerged on whether international organizations or the European Union are doing enough (or perhaps too much) in providing solutions to pressing societal issues. The crises and challenges that our societies face have, in sum, called attention to the role of public law and its actors in today’s world: what does public law stand for in the face of these crises and challenges? Which are the global and local institutions emerging and disappearing? How are these crises changing or challenging the role of public law? Conversely, should the role of public law be rethought and reshaped for it to be able to tackle these challenges?
Reflecting on these issues and approaches, our plenary sessions will be organized around two main topics: balancing of rights and obligations in the pandemic and post-pandemic era and legislative and judicial responses to climate change. The conference theme also invites (re‑)consideration of a variety of other topics and approaches that are of ongoing and widespread interest in public law, including but not limited to questions of constitutional identities and pluralism, alternative approaches to rights protection, comparative constitutional law and institutional design, and political versus legal constitutionalism, among others. All these will be discussed in parallel panel sessions.
Keynote speakers will include
Prof. Carole Billet (Hasselt University)
Dr. Kathalijne Buitenweg (Raad van State)
Download the PDF version of the final programme here.
Contact for questions:
Contact for registrations:
Inaugural Conference Organizing Committee:
Leticia Díez Sánchez, Mariolina Eliantonio, Valentina Golunova, Franco Peirone, Emmanuel Slautsky and Marijn Van der Sluis.