ESIL Newsletter: July 2016


 

1. President's Message: ESIL and Open Access

A few weeks ago, EU member states agreed that by 2020 all scientific papers that result from public funding should be freely available.  This is important for the activities of ESIL and its members. The EU commitment will hopefully change the odd practice that turns scarce research funds into commercial profits rather than into research outcomes. It is difficult to justify why results of publicly-funded research are not accessible to people outside universities unless they pay for them, and why even researchers often do not have access to their colleagues’ latest findings.

It may be that the situation in law is not as bad as in some other disciplines, where some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year (and publishers are making profits in excess of 35%). However, law journals are not exactly cheap. For example, an average law library in the Netherlands spends about €270,000 annually (about 75% of its annual budget) to acquire access to journals that largely include articles written by researchers funded by public money. In addition, many researchers choose to pay to secure open access of their own work which means that additional charges of sometimes €2,000 per article have to be paid to the publishers as well.

The move to end this practice is important as a matter of principle – public research money should not be used to generate profits for commercial publishers. In addition, there are several more specific reasons why it matters and these reasons are relevant for ESIL and its members.

First, individual researchers in international law have a lot to gain from open access as this leads to greater visibility. There is a rich diversity of international law scholarship throughout Europe that is hardly reflected in scholarly work and citations. While many other factors, including language, play a role removing financial hurdles to getting access to everyone’s research is a useful step to a wider recognition of international law researchers throughout Europe.

Second, open access is important because it allows researchers in states with scarce funds to have access to research outcomes. Research funds that can be used to gain access are distributed highly unevenly in Europe. Reliance on external funding has worsened this situation – for example, statistics of ERC-funded activities demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of funds land in the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. This aggravates the problem that I highlighted in my previous editorial: a lack of integration in our Society of researchers from less well-resourced areas. Open access can help to level the playing field by giving all researchers access to the same materials.

Third, open access can maximise the impact of research. While international lawyers are often modest in their expectations of the impact of research, there is much research that can contribute to solutions to real-life problems. We should therefore seek to avoid a situation where government lawyers, attorneys or judges in a relatively poor country lack relevant insights simply because the journals in which those insights appeared are too expensive for them.

ESIL is aiming to contribute to the move towards open access. Its previous conference proceedings ( the fourth volume of which has recently appeared) are not freely available. However, from 2016 onward, ESIL will publish papers from its conferences in volumes to be published with Oxford University Press. An arrangement has now been made which means that all volumes are available through open access after two years. Immediate open access would have been better. However, we have to recognize the position of publishers who in this stage of transition towards open access seek to recoup their investments, and we also cannot ignore the fact that these are precisely the publishers with whom researchers seek to publish in order to strengthen their academic position. We hope that the two-year solution is a step on the road towards an eventual full open access system.

In the meantime, ESIL’s SSRN series provides an important contribution to open access. The publication of pre-final versions is not a definitive solution since the final versions often include important improvements, but in the absence of a better solution, SSRN is key to disseminating academic output free of charge. All researchers who contribute to ESIL events are encouraged to contribute to the ESIL SSRN series. Also ESIL’s choice to include the ESIL Lectures Series on the ESIL YouTube channel rather than in (paid) print helps to disseminate research outcomes without cost.

ESIL’s arrangement with the European Journal of International Law is a further step towards securing a more open access. ESIL members receive, at no additional cost, a subscription to EJIL that includes the online version of the journal plus access to the EJIL app which allows members to read the journal on their mobile devices. (The print edition of the Journal is still available to ESIL members at a special reduced price). While this is not the same as open access, it does reflect our aim to make research available as widely as possible.

Open access is not incompatible with securing quality. It is often said that the current publishing system is important as the peer-review process allows readers to limit themselves to what passes the peer-review thresholds. This function is important – if only because there are already ‘far too many papers to read in too little time.’ However, selectivity and quality control can well be secured in an open access system. ESIL publications are subject to scrutiny, and the same holds for EJIL. Since this is an investment of time for which reviewers are not paid, this system could just as well function in an open access model.

A more difficult challenge is how to ensure editorial quality. A benefit of paid publishing is that the editorial process generally improves the language and clarity of publications. This is not something that we can expect editors to do for free, and publishers still play a critical role here. ESIL seeks to address this problem by investing in editorial work on SSRN papers, having ESIL Board members comment on submissions, and, where no other solutions are available, in paying for the editing of submissions to volumes.

While these are all small steps, taken together they demonstrate that ESIL is committed to bringing research outcomes to its members at the lowest possible cost, in the interest of helping members gain visibility and spreading research findings more evenly throughout Europe. As the number of members in our network continues to increase, and the number of members in less well-resourced countries increases, ESIL aims to be a place where members work together to share our research findings more equitably for maximum impact.

André Nollkaemper

P.A.Nollkaemper@uva.nl


 

2. Guest Editorial

Public International Law - steel frame or safety net?

Catherine Brölmann - University of Amsterdam

The Hague on 20 april 2016 saw the latest chapter in the saga of the bankrupted Russian oil company Yukos, when the District Court quashed six arbitration awards of Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunals. These awards had sustained Yukos shareholders in their claim that the Russian Federation through certain tax measures had de facto expropriated the shares without compensation, ordering Russia to pay 50 billion USD in damages.

As the bulletin of renowned London chambers put it with seeming exasperation: “Yukos illustrates the extent to which the steel frame of public international law runs through investment arbitration. The entire edifice of the Yukos award essentially crumbled on a single point of public international law: a point of treaty interpretation” (http://www.20essexst.com/news/yukos-decision-impact). 

This was a reference to the law of treaties framework which the Hague Court applied in a precise and convincing manner to the question of the arbitration’s validity (judgment in English translation http://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2016:4230). The shareholders had requested arbitration under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), which however had been signed by Russia, but not ratified. A primary issue therefore was the provisional application of the ECT. The ECT states that “each signatory agrees to apply this Treaty provisionally… to the extent that such provisional application is not inconsistent with its constitution, laws or regulations” (art 45.1). The arbiters had interpreted this as a test of the compatibility of the principle of provisional application as such – and hence of the application of the ECT as a whole - with Russian law, and had found no impediments. The Dutch court on the other hand interpreted the phrase to mean that each ECT provision is to be assessed individually (paras 5.6-5.31). When the Court went on to consider provisional application of the arbitration clause (art 26.4.b), it did not find the necessary legal basis for subjecting Russia to arbitration in Russian law; especially since the dispute stemmed from a public-law relation between the Russian state and another party. A specific legal basis for the case at hand was also lacking, as Russia had not ratified the ECT. The District Court thus concluded that the PCA tribunals earlier had mistakenly assumed competence.

Different aspects of this case will be the subject of expert comments for some time to come (the shareholders have lodged an appeal). One point of interest to mention here is the ‘boundary role’ of public international law, loosely comparable to that of public law in domestic systems. Moral, political and economic evaluations of a concrete case can veil the fact that when a legal scenario includes states, notably in their public quality, relations are not ‘transnational’ and the prevailing framework will be that of public international law. This means a system set i.a. to safeguard classic international public interests expressed in tenets such as the requirement of state consent for a binding dispute settlement procedure.


 

3. 2016 Annual Conference: Riga

Among the highlights of the 2016 ESIL conference in Riga are the panel of the Foreign Affairs Ministers hosted by Mr. E. Rinkēvičs, the Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister, and a keynote speech by Jean-Marc Sauvé, Vice-President of the French Council of State. These panels, as well as the forums and agorae, will explore the theme of crisis from its different perspectives in international law.

This year there were almost 200 individual paper proposals submitted for consideration to be included in the agorae of the conference. Ten selection committees consisting of ESIL Board members, the organizers and invited agorae chairs – 28 individuals in total - considered the proposals. Of these, a total of 42 proposals were selected.

In addition, proposals were sought from ESIL Interest Groups for two agorae to be included in the conference programme. The Interest Groups selected for inclusion were the ESIL IG on Feminism and International Law and the ESIL IG on Peace and Security.

Of 16 applications to present a poster at the Riga Conference, ten were accepted.

In inviting forum speakers and chairs for both agorae and forums, of the 67 individuals who were invited or otherwise approached about taking part in the conference, 48 accepted. 

There are a total of 104 individuals taking part in the agorae and forums this year:  68 agora speakers and chairs and 36 forum speakers and chairs. The conference has reached all corners of the world: more than 36 nationalities are represented among the chairs and the speakers.

The Riga Graduate School of Law and the Constitutional Court of Latvia have received the financial support of the Latvian Government for the purposes of organizing the Conference. Furthermore, the RGSL is pleased to count among its sponsors the following organizations:  the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, the international law firm Foley Hoag LLP, the European Commission, Brill Publishers, Oxford University Press, the French Institute in Latvia, and the law firm Cobalt.

The conference will be covered by the Latvian news agency LETA, the newspaper DIENA, and the legal journal “Jurista Vārds”.

Information about the conference, including the full programme, can be found on the conference website. When registering for the conference, ESIL members and non-members are also invited to look at the cultural programme which has been arranged.

Looking forward to meeting you all in Riga!

Ineta Ziemele


 

4. Secretary General's Message

Dear ESIL members,

The 2016 ESIL Board election is fast approaching. At this election the 2016 General Assembly of the Society will elect seven Board members. The election will be held on Friday 9 September at 16.00 during the ESIL Annual Conference in Riga, Latvia. I am happy to write to you regarding the election procedure for the ESIL Board. 

The list of the candidates, along with their photo and a 150-word self-description/bio in both languages, has now been published on the website of the Society. Prior to the election, candidates will be asked to make a brief presentation to the General Assembly, to introduce themselves and to explain their envisaged contribution to the Board's activities.

All current members of the Society are entitled to vote.  You must have paid your membership fee for the year 2016 by Friday 26 August 2016 at the very latest in order to be considered as a current member. Members may vote in person in Riga or may cast a vote by granting a written proxy to a fellow member who will attend the General Assembly. A member may act as proxy on behalf of a maximum of three other members.

Details of the candidates standing for election and instructions on how to vote by proxy are now available on the ESIL website. All current members have also received an email with instructions on how to vote by proxy.

I am looking forward to running the elections as Secretary General.  If you have any questions regarding the nomination and election procedure, please do not hesitate to contact me at bcali@ku.edu.tr 

Başak Çalı


 

5. 2016 Research Forum - Istanbul

The Society's annual Research Forum took place alongside the Bosphorus in Istanbul thanks to the warm welcome of Koç University's Law School and the Center for Global Public Law. The research forum papers, selected from amongst over 180 abstracts, engaged with various dimensions of the research forum theme 'The Making of International Law'. As highlighted by the local organiser Başak Çalı, the papers manifested two trends in current research on international law-making:  a strong interest in international and domestic courts as international law-makers and an equally strong interest in informal actors and processes in the making of international law.  Fifty-three participants from Turkey and elsewhere joined the paper-givers, discussants and chairs. The Research Forum also enabled the Society's interest groups to hold workshops and the History of International Law Interest Group took up this opportunity. An opportunity which, the Board decided, would be repeated at future research fora.


 

6. News from Interest Groups

At the ESIL 12th Annual Conference in Riga, a number of IGs are going to hold side events. These include a workshop of the IG on International Human Rights Law “The Place of International Human Rights Law in Times of Crisis”, which focuses on questions such as as to in what types of crises international human rights law operates and how well it addresses the crises it faces, ranging from conflict, to migration, climate change and the use and application of new technologies.

The IG on International Economic Law will organize a workshop with panels which deal with the future of world economic law: new mega-regional trade and investment agreements and the proposed International Investment Court; International Economic Law and sustainable development and climate change; as well as International Economic Law and economic sanctions.

The IG on International Bio Law will organize the workshop “International Biolaw in times of crisis: progress and challenges” which addresses issues such as new forms of warfare, the rise of extremist terrorism, the fall of sovereign states, the unprecedented flow of migrants/refugees, the increase of the nationalism, climate change and environmental threats as well as problems with economies and financial markets at different levels.

The IG on the History of International Law will have a workshop on “Writing Crisis in the History of International Law” which deals with crisis as permanent feature of international law debates; the intersection between crisis and international law, inevitably inferring questions of time and history; whether the history of international law can be written as a history of crises and what is at stake each time ‘crisis’ is used to characterize a situation as exceptional.

The IG “The European Union as a Global Actor” will hold the workshop “The Contribution of the European Union to the International Legal Order” which will examine to which extent the European Union is able to have an effect on the development of international law, both in a doctrinal and a practical manner.

The IG of the Law of the Sea will hold PhD and Research Forum: “Enforcement at Sea: Legal and Operational Challenges in Maritime Security”. It will deal enforcement operations at sea by states, international organisations and private actors in face of current security threats such as piracy, drugs and arms trafficking, migrant smuggling, traffic of human beings, maritime pollution, illegal fishing, protests at sea, as some of the many activities which threaten maritime security and safety, the applicable legal framework and the limits of the current legal regime, in particular in relation to the protection of fundamental rights and the use of force.

The International Legal Theory and International Environmental Law Interest Groups will hold a joint workshop on the resilience of international law in times of crisis. In a crisis, the time required for careful investigation of the facts, posing questions about root causes, deliberating on different possible responses and considering unintended consequences is not available: decisions must be made rapidly in conditions of great uncertainty. In this panel, the question will be explored as to how, under such conditions, in order to maintain and perpetuate itself, a legal system must possess the quality of resilience; how it must be able to draw on a wide range of resources, reconfiguring and recombining them in novel ways, capable of learning and adaptation. 

The Interest Group on Feminism and International law will hold a roundtable discussion on “Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis in International Law” which seeks to convene various perspectives on the ways current crisis-ridden international law, or utopian crisis-free international law, thrive on instrumental gendered narratives, as well as how the contributions feminist approaches can offer enlarged critical engagement with the status quo of international law and its blind focus on crisis.

The IG on Peace and Security proposed an Agora on “International Legal Advice and Decision Making in Times of Crisis” which will explore the processes through which international law shapes decision making with Governments in times of crisis through a number of instances including, response of the EU to the Paris Terrorist Attaches; the UK’s Chilcot inquiry into the decision to intervene in Iraq; and the US lead coalition against “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and parliamentary war powers.


 

7. ESIL Lecture Series

The ESIL Lecture Series features presentations on international law topics held at partner institutions. ESIL lectures are all published on the ESIL YouTube channel and on its website, enabling the presentations to reach a wider audience of ESIL members and non-members alike.

The most recent lecture posted on the website was delivered on 13 May 2016 at the University of Amsterdam School of Law by James Hathaway, from University of Michigan Law School, entitled ‘Fixing the Refugee System’.

The next ESIL Lecture to be posted online was delivered on 27 June 2016 at Ulster University by Fionnuala Ni Aolain, University of Minnesota Law School, on ‘The Gendered Landscape of International, Regional and Local Approaches to Peacemaking’.


 

8. ESIL Reflections

ESIL Reflections offer up-to-date reflections on current issues in international law. The Reflections are now in their fourth year, covering a wide range of topics relating to current developments in international law and practice as well as theoretical reflections in a way that is relatively accessible to non-experts. They may be discussed on EJIL:Talk! and we invite members to use this discussion forum.

The editors are Anne van Aaken (editor-in-chief), Jutta Brunnée, Başak Çalı and Jan Klabbers. ESIL Members who have an interest in contributing are encouraged to do so. Please contact Anne van Aaken if you would like to contribute.
Latest Publications:


 

9. 2017 Research Forum: Granada

The 2017 ESIL Research Forum will take place on 30-31 March 2017 at the School of Law of Granada University.

The 2017 ESIL Research Forum addresses the contested neutrality of international law. It has often been said that international law should be neutral as regards the States’ political, economic and social systems. However, this ideal of neutrality can be critiqued on both normative and empirical grounds.

The 2017 Research Forum calls for papers addressing the theme of the neutrality of international law including, inter alia, international human rights law as a limit on States’ political choices, multilateral financial assistance and economic sovereignty, a right to democracy under international law, (non-) recognition of governments, insurgents and belligerents, the boundaries of the principle of self-determination under present international law, international markets regulation and the erosion of the European social model, and the current meaning and role of the prohibition of non-intervention.

Abstracts for the Granada Research Forum (maximum 750 words) should be submitted to ESILRF_UGR2017@UGR.ES before 30 September 2016.


 

10. Upcoming Events

The range of events co-organised by the Society is constantly expanding and, in October 2016, ESIL will be holding a seminar with the Court of Justice of the EU at the premises of the Court in Luxembourg. Events already being planned for 2017 include a third conference at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in June, as well as two linked symposia on the subject of sanctions in Prague (May) and in Nottingham (November).

Next year’s ESIL Research Forum will be held in Granada on 30 -31 March 2017. The Call for Papers for the Research Forum is now open; the deadline for abstract submissions is 30 September 2016. Later in the year, the 2017 ESIL Annual Conference will be in Naples on 7 - 9 September; the Call for Papers for the event will be circulated later this year, immediately after the Riga conference.

Full details of the registration process, the programme, and all other related information relating to all ESIL events is made available on the ESIL website as soon as the information is available.

ESIL members are encouraged to be proactive and send proposals for future events to the Board.