Papers: Legal Scholarship Network: Legal Studies Research Paper Series
Legal Scholarship Network: Legal Studies Research Papers Series, University College Dublin is now available on SSRN. Content includes:
There are four interrelated themes that emerge from these five papers. First, sovereignty is changing and will continue to change because sovereignty is inherently dynamic in nature. Second, membership of the EU shores up national sovereignty by acting as a mirror for it and by its dependence in particular on the democratic imperative of the state as a constraint on and legitimating mechanism for EU action. Third, national constitutions remain important in defining, sharing and limiting the sharing of national sovereignty with the EU and, finally, related to this, the nature of sovereignty differs between member states and as between national and international law. The changing and dynamic nature of sovereignty creates a conceptual space within which to consider the relationship between the EU and its Member States. It also points to a future where sovereignty will continue to change allowing for creative responses to the tensions between sovereign interdependence and sovereignty as a constraint on the EU in the context of changing sovereignty also in the international legal order.
The legal status and the factual condition usually, but not necessarily, come together. While territory, people and authority are usually considered the factual basis for legal sovereignty, there are no necessary and sufficient factual conditions that will automatically result in the legal status of being sovereign. As a fiction, sovereignty goes beyond power or legal entitlement. It grasps the deeper emotional and cultural dimension, the fear of losing control and ultimately relevance. Since popular sovereignty has replaced royal sovereignty, the internal political status is rooted in the consent of citizens. This creates a particular link of responsibility in that it aims to ensure that for any action of a sovereign entity there is ultimately an individual or a group of individuals that can be held responsible. This paper will explore to what extent this more recent understanding of internal sovereignty is and also should be relevant for our understanding of sovereignty more broadly, including external sovereignty as a condition and a fiction, but ultimately also as a legal status. Indeed, the paper argues there are pragmatic and normative arguments in favour of understanding internal and external sovereignty as a continuum. This confronts the traditional view of international law that denies this connection between the internal and external dimension of sovereignty entirely.
As we entered the twenty-first century questions were asked about the traditional Westphalian concept of sovereignty as part of the construction of a more coordinated international response to various humanitarian crises. The resulting 2005 World Summit Outcome document recognised that sovereignty carried responsibilities and if a state was unwilling (or unable) to meet those responsibilities then the international community could intervene. With the implementation of this principle (the responsibility to protect) the focus has shifted from respecting sovereignty to safeguarding the victims of the various crimes falling within the scope of the principle thus adding a new dimension to international law. It must be recognised that this is a very limited exception to sovereignty but it is not the only exception as international law has become increasingly fragmented with the introduction of various self-contained regimes in which special rules and techniques of interpretation apply. Included among these self-contained regimes is the law of the World Trade Organization. In 2006 the International Law Commission published their report on Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law. It concluded that although fragmentation has raised questions about the coherence of international law, it has increased its responsiveness to the regulatory context without seriously undermining legal security, predictability or the equality of States. This has been achieved through what the report characterised as a "basic professional tool-box" of interpretative techniques and the position accorded to jus cogens and obligations erga omnes. The tool-box has allowed international law to respond to various concerns, such as economic development, human rights and environmental protection but the resulting international legal system lacks the coherence exhibited by domestic legal systems. At this point, it must be recognised that that coherence has been increasingly undermined as problems having a regional or multilateral dimension require externally-sourced solutions which have an impact on sovereignty. If international law continues to respond to these problems through self-contained regimes then the fragmentation of international law will continue and sovereignty will continue to diminish. This contribution examines the continuing refinement of the tool-box as one method of addressing these problems before sketching an outline of a hierarchical system which could provide a solution to these problems. Both of these solutions have important implications for the future of sovereignty.