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Accelerating cities, constitutional brakes? Exploring the local authorities between global challenges and domestic law

EYCL 2020


Increasingly, local authorities around the world invoke international law to tackle global challenges autonomously while distancing themselves from national laws and policies, sometimes stimulated by international authorities. This chapter addresses the relevance of national constitutional arrangements for the way in which the resulting conflicts are, or are not, resolved. More specifically, how do domestic courts respond to ‘accelerating cities’ invoking international law as they oppose policies of the national government? Discussing cases from Germany, Turkey, France, the Netherlands and Spain, we offer an initial exploration of how such cases have the potential to challenge the constitutional order in federal and unitary states alike. At the same time, ‘accelerating cities’ are confronted with ‘constitutional brakes’—barriers in national constitutional and administrative rules. Our analysis suggests that national courts may permit harmless symbolic acts, but step down, or even create a ‘backlash’ in the case of more consequential actions. Given the potential in local engagement with international law, and the rise of the phenomenon, it is urgent to set up systematic and detailed investigations and comparisons of the dynamics of local government law in different countries and how they are shaped by an invocation of international law in general, and human rights law in particular.

The published version can be accessed via SpringerLink.