Articles Developments in PIL Scholarship

Szabados on Constitutional identity and Private International Law

Tamás Szabados (Eötvös Loránd University) published Constitutional identity and judicial cooperation in civil matters in the European Union – An ace up the sleeve?, in the Common Market Law Review (vol. 58, February 2021).

The paper discusses the constitutional identity-based arguments in the field of private international law.

He has kindly provided us with an extended abstract :

Constitutional identity has become a fashionable concept that is used by politicians and courts alike. But how does constitutional identity affect private international law?

The use of constitutional identity-based arguments has been primarily examined in the context of EU and domestic constitutional law. Constitutional law discourse has mainly centred around the interpretation of Article 4(2) of the TEU. However, less attention has been devoted to the role and impact of arguments related to constitutional identity on the development of EU private international law. This is notwithstanding the fact that constitutional identity seems to shape the application and creation of private international law rules.

Constitutional identity has a twofold effect on private international law. First, peculiar constitutional norms and values belonging to constitutional identity can be safeguarded through the public policy exception. This opens the door for courts to disregard the otherwise applicable foreign law or to reject the recognition of a foreign situation on the ground that it violates the constitutional identity of the forum state.

Second, arguments based on constitutional identity may be relied on to stay outside the enactment of new private international legislation by the EU. In particular, due to the unanimity requirement laid down by Article 81(3) TFEU, Member States have a strong bargaining power in the area of international family law. This can be well illustrated by the recent adoption of Matrimonial Property Regulation and the Regulation on the Property Regimes of Registered Partners where the opposition of some Member States led to the enactment of these regulations in enhanced cooperation procedure. Staying outside from the adoption of these regulations has been motivated by protecting the domestic concept of family as part of national or constitutional identity. In this way, constitutional identity undoubtedly contributes to the fragmentation of EU private international law.

Nevertheless, constitutional identity can be rarely used as a trump by the Member States in the area of the judicial cooperation in civil matters. There are at least two limits concerning the application of the autonomous private international law rules of the Member States. First, as long as an international legal dispute demonstrates some connection to EU law, Member States must respect the fundamental principles of EU law, in particular the principles of free movement and non-discrimination. Second, even if no such connection exists, the limits stemming from international conventions, such as the ECHR, cannot be ignored.     

The details of the article are available through the journal website here.

Marion is law professor at Artois University (France)

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