What is left of constitutional imaginaries in the CEE region? Examples from the Czech Republic

The narrative of progress (Go West!) in the CEE region seems dead. It is gradually, on many levels, replaced by what is called democratic backsliding. The total sum of various versions of populism, however mediated and incompletely implemented, has been structurally important (though not absolute) in establishing a broad alternative to the existing order supported by the dominant constitutional imaginaries. It is the contingency and constellation of certain interests that are central to understanding how constitutional imaginaries are politically conditioned and how they evolve; dependent upon contingent coalitions of interests, ideas, experts and technocrats trained in certain traditions. The paper uses the rise of centrist technocratic populism in the Czech Republic and presents a vision of a regime alternative to the European project. This alternative is based on a denial of political pluralism, anti-partyism and resistance to constitutionalism.

Mnemonic Constitutionalism in Hungary and EU Constitutional Imaginaries

In recent years, scholars have been exploring the intentions behind and consequences of historical narratives contained in the Fundamental Law of Hungary. Constitutional preambles can function as spaces for engagement with history, but the Hungarian developments warrant a more expansive examination of the phenomenon of mnemonic constitutionalism – the emerging prominence of historical narratives in constitutions and regulating history with law. Can or should the historical narratives of the Fundamental Law be connected to the assertion of State sovereignty through the rejection of EU integratory efforts; are they a tool of transmitting cultural values or a calculated political means to discriminate minorities. The presentation, the introduction to a forthcoming postdoctoral project within the framework of IMAGINE, explores how the increasing emphasis on history in Hungarian constitutionalism results in the embrace or rejection of ECIs.

The uniqueness of Estonian imaginaries

The paper highlights the particularities of the Estonian case study and the added value of the Estonian ECIs. I believe the Estonian case study has much to tell for both the IMAGINE project and Europe at large. I see the Estonian uniqueness in three main aspects. First, the cultural, economic and geopolitical positioning which has brought about a strong security paradigm complemented by a mild economic one. Second, the specific aspects of Estonian constitutional theory and practice and how it relates to EU law, especially in light of Estonia’s portrayal as one of the most liberal and EU-enthusiastic countries. Third, the perks and pitfalls of being such a small and dynamic country, especially the importance and experience of the bold reforms done in 1990s, most notably the large-scale judicial reform. All of these are in many ways different from other IMAGINE case studies and will hopefully uncover a special vision of ECIs.

Where to look for European constitutional imaginaries in Poland?

I will present a tentative research design for the study of ECIs in Poland. The study will rely on in-depth interviews with crucial actors and a survey of literature, parliamentary documents and case law. It will cover the political, judicial and academic field. It will be divided in at least four parts relating to politico-legal processes in which ECIs have been likely to unfold: the adoption of the Constitution of 1997; the adaptation of the Polish law to EU law through legislation and case law to the EU accession of 2004; the carving out of the relationship between the Polish and EU legal order, mainly inside the courtrooms of apex courts – at a later stage in the context of financial crisis; and a major reorientation of political priorities and the constitutional reinterpretation after 2015. I particularly welcome critiques of the study design that would help me identify all relevant sources and processes likely to reveal ECIs alternative to the predominant legalist one.