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Bypassing the Nation State? How Swiss Cantonal Parliaments Deal with International Obligations

English title Bypassing the Nation State? How Swiss Cantonal Parliaments Deal with International Obligations
Applicant Schmid Evelyne
Number 182148
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Droit international public Faculté de droit et des sciences criminelles
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Legal sciences
Start/End 01.06.2019 - 31.01.2024
Approved amount 810'148.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Legal sciences
Political science

Keywords (7)

denationalisation; international law; legislative studies; federalism; European law; parliamentarism; cantons

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Das Völkerrecht wird in der Öffentlichkeit z.T. kontrovers wahrgenommen. In unserem Projekt untersuchen wir konkret, wie Kantonsparlamente mit internationalen Verpflichtungen umgehen. Wann und wie können Kantonsparlamente Einfluss nehmen und wie können sie die Spielräume nutzen, welche das Völkerrecht ihnen bei der Umsetzung überlässt?
Lay summary

Das Völkerrecht ist heute komplexer als noch vor hundert Jahren. Es richtet sich oft auch an innerstaatliche Gesetzgeber und verlangt von diesen, tätig zu werden. Wenn die Schweiz sich entscheidet, eine völkerrechtliche Verpflichtung einzugehen, bedeutet dies häufig, dass Kantonsparlamente verpflichtet werden, neue Gesetze zu verabschieden oder zu ändern, zum Beispiel um Verpflichtungen aus den bilateralen Abkommen oder im Bereich des Menschenrechtsschutzes umzusetzen. Nicht immer freuen sich alle darüber. Einige monieren einen angeblich nahezu vollständigen Verlust des Spielraumes der Parlamente – andere wiederum beklagen umgekehrt einen angeblich fehlenden Einfluss des Völkerrechts auf kantonale Gesetzgebungsprozesse. Ebenfalls können Situationen eintreten, in denen zwar eine Verpflichtung besteht, ein Kantonsparlament aber untätig bleibt oder eine Verpflichtung nur halbherzig umsetzt. Die Schweiz hat als Kleinstaat ein grosses Interesse an einer regelbasierten völkerrechtlichen Ordnung. Sie möchte international ihren Ruf als zuverlässige Handels- und Vertragspartnerin sichern. Sie will aber auch ihre föderalistische Ordnung erhalten und innerstaatliche Politikspielräume bewahren.

Das Ziel

Das Projekt hat zum Ziel, die Auswirkungen von völkerrechtlichen gesetzgeberischen Verpflichtungen auf die konkrete Arbeit der Kantonsparlamente zu untersuchen. Erstens möchten wir wissen, wann und durch welche formalen und informellen Mechanismen kantonale Akteure konkret mit solchen Verpflichtungen in Berührung treten. Zweitens untersuchen wir, wann und wie sich die kantonalen Parlamente am meisten für oder gegen eine Umsetzung einer völkerrechtlichen Verpflichtung engagieren, um Unterschiede in den Prozessen und den Resultaten der Umsetzung des Völkerrechts zu erklären.

Bedeutung

Das Projekt will dazu beitragen, ein differenziertes Verständnis der für die Schweiz besonders relevanten Wirklichkeit des Völkerrechts in kantonalen Gesetzgebungsprozessen zu erarbeiten. Unsere Ergebnisse sollen die Grundlage für den konstruktiven Umgang mit folgender Herausforderung liefern: Welche Art von Unterstützung oder Mechanismen sind bzw. wären geeignet, den gewählten Mitgliedern eines Kantonsparlamentes und weiteren Akteuren zu ermöglichen, ihre demokratiepolitisch erforderliche Rolle in einem internationalen Kontext und im Spannungsfeld von verschiedenen verfassungsrechtlichen und politischen Zielen in einem föderalistischen Kontext auch in Zukunft wahrzunehmen? International hat das Projekt Auswirkungen auf die Untersuchung der nationalen Rolle und Wirklichkeit des Völkerrechts, der Entwicklung des Parlamentarismus und auf die These der «Entstaatlichung» des Nationalstaates.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 12.11.2018

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
La perception du droit international par le public est parfois controversée. Dans notre projet, nous examinons comment les parlements cantonaux réagissent concrètement aux obligations internationales. Quand et comment est-ce que les parlements cantonaux peuvent-ils exercer une influence et comment peuvent-ils utiliser la marge de manœuvre que leur laisse le droit international lorsqu’ils le mettent en œuvre ?
Lay summary

Le droit international est plus complexe aujourd’hui qu’il ne l’était il y a cent ans. Il s’adresse parfois aux législateurs nationaux et exige d’eux qu’ils prennent des mesures législatives. Lorsque la Suisse décide de contracter une obligation internationale, cela signifie souvent que les parlements cantonaux vont être obligés d’adopter ou de modifier de nouvelles lois, par exemple pour mettre en œuvre des obligations découlant d’accords bilatéraux ou dans le domaine de la protection des droits humains. Tout le monde n’est pas toujours content. Certains déplorent une perte quasi totale de la marge de manœuvre des parlements – d’autres, en revanche, se plaignent d’une prétendue absence d’influence du droit international sur les processus législatifs cantonaux. Il peut aussi arriver qu’une obligation contraignante de légiférer existe, mais qu’un parlement cantonal reste inactif ou choisisse une mise en œuvre partielle ou lacunaire. En tant que petit État, la Suisse a tout intérêt à ce que l’ordre juridique international soit fondé sur des règles. Elle veut asseoir sa réputation internationale de partenaire fiable. Mais elle veut aussi maintenir son ordre fédéraliste et laisser une certaine liberté d’action aux acteurs infranationaux.

But

L’objectif du projet est d’examiner les effets des obligations législatives internationales sur le travail concret des parlements cantonaux. Tout d’abord, nous aimerions savoir quand et par quels mécanismes formels et informels les acteurs cantonaux entrent en contact avec des obligations internationales. Ensuite, nous souhaitons examiner quand et comment les parlements cantonaux s’engagent le plus pour la mise en œuvre d’une obligation de droit international ou s’y opposent, afin d’expliquer les différences dans les processus et les résultats de la mise en œuvre du droit international.

Importance

Le projet vise à contribuer au développement d’une compréhension différenciée de la réalité du droit international dans les processus législatifs cantonaux, ce qui est particulièrement important pour la Suisse. Nos résultats devraient servir de base au traitement constructif du défi suivant : Quels soutiens ou mécanismes sont ou seraient appropriés pour permettre aux élus d’un parlement cantonal et aux autres acteurs de continuer à jouer leur rôle démocratique dans un contexte international et dans le champ des tensions entre les différents objectifs constitutionnels et politiques dans un contexte fédéraliste ? Sur le plan international, le projet a des implications pour l’étude du niveau national dans la pratique du droit international, de l’évolution du parlementarisme et de la thèse de la « dénationalisation » de l’État-nation.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 12.11.2018

Lay Summary (Italian)

Lead
La percezione pubblica del diritto internazionale è talvolta controversa. Nel nostro progetto esaminiamo come i parlamenti cantonali reagiscono concretamente agli obblighi internazionali. Quando e come i parlamenti cantonali possono esercitare la loro influenza e come possono utilizzare il margine di manovra lasciato loro dal diritto internazionale nella sua attuazione?
Lay summary

Il diritto internazionale è oggi più complesso di quanto non lo fosse cento anni fa. Talvolta si rivolge ai legislatori nazionali e impone loro di adottare nuove misure legislative. Quando la Svizzera decide di assumere un obbligo internazionale, spesso ciò significa che i parlamenti cantonali dovranno adottare o modificare nuove leggi, ad esempio per attuare gli obblighi derivanti da accordi bilaterali o nel campo della protezione dei diritti umani. Non tutti se ne rallegrano. Alcuni ipotizzano una perdita quasi totale del margine di manovra dei parlamenti - altri, invece, lamentano la presunta mancanza di influenza del diritto internazionale sui processi legislativi cantonali. Può anche accadere che esista un obbligo vincolante di legiferare, ma che un parlamento cantonale rimanga inattivo o effettui un’attuazione parziale o incompleta. In quanto Paese di piccole dimensioni, la Svizzera ha un forte interesse per un ordinamento giuridico internazionale basato su regole. La Svizzera ambisce a consolidare la sua reputazione internazionale come partner affidabile ma vuole anche mantenere il suo ordine federalista e difendere la libertà d’azione degli attori subnazionali.

Obiettivo

L’obiettivo del progetto è quello di esaminare il ruolo degli obblighi legislativi internazionali sul lavoro concreto dei parlamenti cantonali. In primo luogo, vorremmo sapere quando e attraverso quali meccanismi formali e informali gli attori cantonali gestiscono gli obblighi internazionali. In secondo luogo,  ci interessiamo a come i parlamenti cantonali procedono all’attuazione di un obbligo di diritto internazionale, oppure si oppongono, in modo da spiegare le differenze nei processi e nei risultati di tale attuazione.

Significato

Il progetto mira a contribuire allo sviluppo di una comprensione differenziata della realtà del diritto internazionale nei processi legislativi cantonali, ciò che è particolarmente importante per la Svizzera. I nostri risultati dovrebbero servire come base per affrontare costruttivamente la seguente sfida: Quali tipi di supporto o meccanismi sono o sarebbero appropriati per consentire ai rappresentanti eletti di un parlamento cantonale e ad altri attori di continuare a svolgere il loro ruolo democratico in un contesto internazionale e rispetto alle tensioni tra i diversi obiettivi costituzionali e politici in uno Stato federale? A livello internazionale, il progetto ha importanti implicazioni per lo studio del contributo del livello nazionale nella pratica del diritto internazionale, del divenire dei sistemi parlamentari e della tesi della “denazionalizzazione" dello Stato nazionale.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 12.11.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Publications

Publication
Governmental human rights focal points in federal contexts: The implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Switzerland as a case study
Niederhauser Matthieu (2021), Governmental human rights focal points in federal contexts: The implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Switzerland as a case study, in Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 39(2), 140-160.
Bientôt un droit à la création d’aires d’accueil pour les gens du voyage ?
Kaempfer Constance (2020), Bientôt un droit à la création d’aires d’accueil pour les gens du voyage ?, 6, 14.
L’obligation internationale de mettre des aires d’accueil à disposition des gens du voyage
KaempferConstance (2020), L’obligation internationale de mettre des aires d’accueil à disposition des gens du voyage, in ex ante, 2, 38-46.
Chapter 2: How Upper Levels Strive to Influence Law-Making at the Lower Levels and Why Lower Levels Can’t Have Cake and Eat It
Schmid Evelyne (2019), Chapter 2: How Upper Levels Strive to Influence Law-Making at the Lower Levels and Why Lower Levels Can’t Have Cake and Eat It, in Xanthaki Helen, Popelier Patricia, Uhlmann Felix, Robinson William, Silveira João Tiago (ed.), Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, Baden-Baden, 43-68.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Congrès de l’Association française de sociologie Talk given at a conference Les usages infranationaux du droit international : le cas de la Convention d’Istanbul en Suisse 07.07.2021 Lille, France Miaz Jonathan;
5th International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP5) Talk given at a conference How do swiss cantons engage with international norms? Actors and mechanisms 07.07.2021 Barcelone, Spain Niederhauser Matthieu;
ICON·S | The International Society of Public Law Annual Conference I-CONS MUNDO Talk given at a conference Domestic parliaments in world politics: Towards a more effective engagement of parliaments with international norms 07.07.2021 Wroclaw, Poland Schmid Evelyne;
5th International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP5) Talk given at a conference Towards an Internationalization of Subnational Policymaking in Switzerland? The case of the Istanbul Convention 06.07.2021 Barcelone, Spain Maggetti Martino; Miaz Jonathan; Niederhauser Matthieu;
The SPSA Annual Conference Talk given at a conference How do swiss cantons engage with international norms? Actors and mechanisms 05.02.2021 Berne, Switzerland Niederhauser Matthieu;
The SPSA Annual Conference Talk given at a conference International Human Rights Law and Subnational Intermediaries: The Legislative Implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Swiss Cantons 04.02.2021 Berne, Switzerland Maggetti Martino; Niederhauser Matthieu; Miaz Jonathan;
Association of Human Rights Institutes 2020 Conference Talk given at a conference The implementation of the Istanbul Convention in a federal state: uncovering multi-level governmental coordination mechanisms and focal points 04.09.2020 Pretoria, South Africa Niederhauser Matthieu;
29th World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy Talk given at a conference Can we Enhance the Ability of Domestic Parliaments to Recognise, Influence, Defy or Fulfil International Legal Obligations or are we Trying to Re-arrange Deckchairs on the Titanic? 31.07.2019 Lucerne, Switzerland Schmid Evelyne;
Middlesex Law School Doctoral Seminar. Talk given at a conference The implementation mechanisms of international obligations in the Swiss cantons 01.06.2019 Middlesex, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Kaempfer Constance;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Les parlements cantonaux suisses et leurs obligations internationales Western Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2021
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Le guide de bonnes pratiques: un outil prometteur pour la mise en œuvre des droits humains dans les German-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Western Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2020

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
162832 When and why do governments integrate policy sectors? A comparative analysis of eleven countries and four policy areas 01.03.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)
168135 Die pflichtwidrig unterlassene Umsetzung von völker- und europarechtlichen Normsetzungsaufträgen im schweizerischen Recht 01.02.2017 Ambizione

Abstract

Today, international law frequently requires legislation by domestic parliaments. Yet, a thorny problem that international law continues to face is precisely its limited ability to influence the behaviour of domestic legislators and the ‘relative impermeability of national systems to international legal imperatives’ (Cassese 2012, 188). Moreover, the expansion of international law and its shift away from regulating interstate relations towards a complex system of governance virtually concerning all societal domains has sparked opposition. Starting with the premise that ‘the future of international law is domestic’ (Slaughter and Burke-White, 2006), we claim that the challenges at the intersection of international obligations and domestic legal realities are particularly acute with respect to parliamentary processes located at the subnational level. Domestic legislatures, let alone subnational parliaments, have, however, been largely overlooked so far both internationally and in Switzerland and existing research has predominantly focused on courts rather than on domestic legislative actors. Although the literature recognises the importance of national and subnational legislative actors for the effectiveness of international law, when and how cantonal legislatures engage with international obligations has not yet been systematically studied.To fill this gap, we are building a research team of legal and political science researchers to answer two tightly connected questions. First, we want to find out through which formal and informal mechanisms cantonal parliaments and other actors involved in cantonal legislative processes engage with international obligations that require them to legislate and that are contained in two sets of international treaties: i) selected obligations related to the protection of human rights of particularly vulnerable individuals (such as Travellers, persons with disabilities, or undocumented minors) and ii) selected obligations from the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. These two groups of obligations are chosen to explore the impact of issue-specific factors, such as the degree of legal and de facto autonomy of the subnational level, which is assumed to be perceived as quite high for the former and relatively low for the latter. Second, we would like to know when and how cantonal parliaments engage the most and explain variations in the patterns of engagement and eventually implementation of international law. In this context, a special attention will be given to parliamentary structures and mechanisms in Swiss cantons that potentially support cantonal legislative actors to recognise, influence, defy or fulfil international obligations, such as proposals and messages by the cantonal and federal executives, the set-up of the secretariat, parliamentary committees, consultation procedures, the solicitation by federal agencies of cantonal information for the reporting to international supervisory organs or the practice of intercantonal conventions and conferences. We will base our analysis on an examination of the status quo and on an empirical comparative cross-case study in selected cantons, that is, Bern, Geneva, Vaud, Ticino and Zug. This selection is suitable as it allows for sufficient variation in the variables of interest while enabling cross-case comparability. We will combine doctrinal and socio-legal research and empirical political science research to tackle the four research modules needed to achieve our research objectives. By focusing on Switzerland as a crucial case, this research has fundamental and wider implications for the study the domestic implications of international law, parliamentarism and for the scholarship on the ‘denationalisation’ of the nation-state. Notably, our analysis will provide a nuanced conceptual and empirical basis for discussing the complex relationship between international law and the Swiss legal and political system. It will also enlighten and qualify the debate about either a near complete loss of discretion of the subnational legislator or, vice versa, arguments about a lack of influence of international law on subnational lawmaking processes.
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