How democratic are treaties? The Europeanisation of the treaty-making power and its consequences on the democratic credentials of the executive prerogative in foreign affairs

The presentation offers an overview of the executive’s treaty-making power in Dutch and Belgian law. This classical topic will be revisited in light of the EU multi-level framework, based on the assumption that treaty making is no more the exclusive competence of national governments. As external competences have been devolved to the EU, it is now able to conclude international agreements, either alone (EU-only agreements) or with member states (mixed agreements). Consequently, new paths – as well as new challenges – have been created for the parliament to check the treaty-making powers of the government. What does this mean for the democratic legitimacy of the executive's treaty-making power? Is that an opportunity to develop new legal tools and practices to overcome one of the deepest paradox of constitutional law, which is that the executive might impose from outside what would be forbidden from inside?

Democratic legitimacy and government accountability: an analysis through a gender lens

This communication will first analyse the way in which the Belgian Federal Government develops and mobilises gender mainstreaming mechanisms such as regulatory impact analysis, the drafting and dissemination of thematic reports to Parliament and gender budgeting. In a second step, we will ask ourselves if the implementation of such mechanisms effectively allows for a 'democracy of exercise' in that they ensure or would ensure a better consideration and therefore representation of women in the policies carried out. Through such an analysis, we want to shed light on the way in which the Government makes itself an actor of its own democratic legitimacy by identifying the question of representation within the policies it conducts as an issue. We also want to understand whether such mechanisms formalise the political accountability of the governing to the governed.

What do citizen perceptions of trust tell us about constitutional authority?

Authority is a core element of effective constitutional government. But where does authority come from and how is is it maintained? This paper considers whether there may be a recursive relationship between the authority of constitutional systems and how they operate and are experienced by citizens within the system. Using examples from particular systems, the paper will explore citizen perceptions of trust, legitimacy and authority and consider what these perceptions may indicate about the foundations of public law.

The End of Ministerial Responsibility?

The intervention assesses four ways in which the doctrine of ministerial responsibility might be said to be ending in the UK: first in constitutional scholarship, given diminishing academic attention paid to these conventions; second in constitutional practice, by evaluating the crises of collective and individual responsibility in the governments of May and Johnson; third in the shift from reliance on constitutional conventions of ministerial responsibility to reliance on a formal Ministerial Code; and fourth, in recent prominent proposals for further reform in this area, by providing a legislative basis for the rules in the Ministerial Code.

Does trust in Government still matter in constitutional law?

This communication will analyze the rules framing trust in Government in Belgian constitutional law. First, it will demonstrate that the concept of trust in constitutional law has never ceased to be ambiguous. Second, it will demonstrate that Belgian constitutional law does not reflect a great concern for trust in Government. Belgian law does not provide for incentive for political actors to move beyond situations where the State is governed without confidence of Parliament: the rationalization of parliamentarism did not clarify or formalize the requirements of confidence while the evolutions of the “current affairs” theory allow resigning government to take ever more important decisions (budget, revision of the Constitution). Third, it will analyze the evolutions of the rules regarding parliamentary control of the Executive, their articulations with political responsibility and trust in Government.