Professor Dora Kostakopoulou Talk on ‘Contemporary Perspectives of EU Citizenship’

Lincoln Law School – Law in a Global Context Research Group Seminar – 13 May 2015

On 13 May, Professor Dora Kostakopoulou gave a talk on ‘Contemporary Perspectives of EU Citizenship’. By exploring different theorisations of the European integration process and in particular using the lens of institutional constructivism Dora Kostakopoulou traced and examined the development of the evolving concept of European Union Citizenship. By looking at key decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union she reflected on the problems concerning the development of a European identity vis-à-vis national identities and, on more general level, the interconnectedness between the incremental and transformative change of the European integration process and the evolution of European Union Citizenship.

Dora Kostakopoulou is Professor of European Union Law, European Integration and Public Policy at the School of Law of the  University of Warwick. She joined Lincoln Law School as Visiting Professor in 2015.

Lincoln Law School and REF 2014: Real Success!

There has been a lot in the news about the recent publication of the outcomes from the national Research Excellence Framework (the “REF”), which measures the quality of universities’ research.

Research is often the less appreciated element of what academics do – to enquire, to research and to write, often on contemporary and socially-important issues, which in our case is within the broad field of legal analysis.

Research in Lincoln Law covers many areas including international and European law, human rights and civil liberties, environmental law, corporate governance, as well as contract law and civil procedure. We also have particular strength in criminal justice and victims’ rights.

REF 2014 marked a significant step change in research for Lincoln Law School – with a dramatic 45% improvement since the last time we were reviewed following a similar exercise in 2008. With 89% of what we now do (our publications, our research environment and our social impact) being of international quality, the School is well-positioned to strengthen its research focus and reach even further in future years.

Why does this matter? As Professor Duncan French, Head of Lincoln Law School explains: “the quality of our research is intrinsically important, but beyond that our research feeds into our engagement with society and reaffirms the value of universities in public life. In particular, what we research feeds into what – and how – we teach. I’m tremendously proud of my colleagues for achieving this really substantial increase in our research quality. As a law school which places student enhancement at the very heart of everything we do – achieving a great REF score is equally a tremendous achievement”.

Bristol seminar on climate change

Professor Duncan French was invited to participate in a seminar at the law firm, Burges Salmon in Bristol, on recent developments in the climate change regime.

Presenting with Dr Ben Pontin, UWE, their paper focused on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the largely hidden role that legal rules frame and govern the global assessment of climate science.

Professor French noted: “the reports of the IPCC have become increasingly authoritative in their determination of the science and consequently its important to understand the role, governance and procedures of the IPCC.

“An upcoming challenge will be how the work of the IPCC will in future be relied upon as the legal regime which has built itself around this important scientific work becomes increasingly contested and fragmented”.

A personal reflection on international law & Scottish referendum

Now that the people of Scotland have voted no in the 18th September referendum – a process that can be said to be a marvellous exercise of democracy, with a turnout of almost 85% – the inevitable period of reflection, soul-searching and, to some extent, recrimination follows. This short blog seeks to contribute to this discussion in one particular area; namely the consequence of the referendum for international law and the international community.

International law was a background factor (even if it wasn’t recognised as such) in much of the debate: would Scotland be able to use the pound as a currency and, of course, under what conditions would Scotland join the European Union? Indeed, the UK sought and published, specific legal advice on what nature Scotland’s independence might take (

I want to raise a broader question; was the recent Scottish referendum an instance of a people seeking to exercise their right in international law to self-determination, or was this an attempt at the secession of one part of a State’s territory which had the potential to cause wider – systemic – global instability? If one thinks this sounds alarmist, one need only consider the attempt in Catalonia to hold a referendum this November, and against which the full measure of the Spanish Government and Constitutional Court worked to suppress.

There is no doubt that all “peoples” – a notoriously difficult concept to define – have a right to self-determination, which has been taken to mean that they “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. Historically, international lawyers have argued that self-determination as externally manifested through the attainment of independence was however limited to those situations when territories were under colonial rule or foreign oppression, thus providing the legal basis for the wholescale decolonisation that occurred post-World War II.

Even if one were prepared to extend this right to independence to areas within a State to include situations where a “definable group denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political….development” as the Canadian Constitutional Court did in 1998, as regards whether Quebec could legally secede from Canada, this would not apply to Scotland – as it didn’t apply to Quebec. Both enjoy significant political autonomy; ironically, in the case of Scotland more so since the Scotland Act 1998 was passed, which created the Scottish Parliament and Government, than at any point since the Act of Union in 1707.

To that extent, the Scottish situation is notably different from the situation in Kosovo, which through the armed support of NATO, secured separation from Serbia and eventually declared independence; an independence that has not been universally recognised – including from countries such as Spain and Russia, which have significant secessionist movements.

There is thus a tension at the heart of the international system; between the freedom of choice of peoples, on the one hand, and international stability, on the other. Though not without controversy – and with some hesitation – my own personal view is that Scotland had no right in international law to independence. Its right to self-determination is to continue to develop its own internal political processes still further, and while the UK continues to ensure Scotland has that political autonomy, Scotland has no legal right to secure independence.

But in this case, Scotland’s referendum was not a unilaterally sought expression of a right – as was Catalonia’s attempt to hold a referendum this November, before it downgraded it ‘consultations’ in the face of opposition – but rather it was based on an agreement between the UK and Scottish Governments. The 2012 “Edinburgh Agreement” between the UK and Scottish Governments, and subsequent Orders in Council taken thereunder, was fundamental to the legality of the referendum in both domestic and international law. This was no Kosovo or Catalonia; this was a situation where the government of the sovereign State (the UK) was agreeing to the referendum in part of its territory.

Much has been written as to whether David Cameron should have agreed to the referendum. My view is that the UK Government was right to support the holding of a referendum – to do otherwise would have been to ignore the democratic mandate of the SNP at the last Scottish elections and may have created internal instability within the UK constitutional system. However, by doing so the UK has inadvertently contributed to feelings of secession across the world; thus the strong reaction of many world leaders as the Scottish referendum date approached. Some might go so far as to say that by granting the referendum, the UK has undermined an unwritten political consensus between States not to jeopardise the centrality – the mythology – of the sovereign State.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation”

So says the 1776 US Declaration of Independence. Whether Scotland had voted yes or not in the referendum, it seems to me that it was incumbent on both the UK and Scotland to have made a better case for the referendum internationally so as to uphold the principles of the democratic process on which it was being held. In doing so, it would recognise that other regions in the world would take a stance on the issue for themselves and their own peoples. The UK as a permanent member of the UN Security Council is particularly responsible for not contributing to wider instability. The UK and Scotland would have done well to have given more thought to “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind”.

Professor Duncan French, University of Lincoln

Smart Water at International Conference

Nathan Cooper is presenting a paper today at the 11th International Conference on Hydroinformatics, in New York City.

The paper, Exploring the impact of smart water pumps on communities in Malawi and South Africa, draws on College-funded interviews and fieldwork Nathan undertook at Easter.

Nathan says: “It’s a great opportunity to share findings and ideas with a specialist audience, and to be able to discuss the legal and social aspects of new water technology”.