Lecture: Republican Constitutional Pluralism and the Obligation of Constitutional Courts in the European Union

Dr. Max Steuer
Comenius University Bratislava (Slovak Republic)

Date: 27.5.2024, 6:00 p.m.
Venue: Room L621, 6th floor | Faculty of Law | Sigmund Freud University | Lassallestraße 3, 1020 Vienna


A key concept embodying the capacity of (EU) law to ‘unite in diversity’, constitutional pluralism, is seen as vulnerable to abuse by illiberal actors, prominently represented in Central Europe. In response to the attempts of illiberal actors to shrink the space for fundamental rights protection in the EU, prominent scholars have rejected constitutional pluralism and advocated a nascent federal structure for the Union. However, these proposals face legitimacy challenges in the absence of a formal constitution. Responding to the critiques of constitutional pluralism, my presentation discusses whether and how it may be redeemed as a key invention of EU integration. Firstly, I question that the heterarchical alterative to sources of law constitutional pluralism offers is more vulnerable to abuse by illiberal actors than the hierarchical reading represented by the (EU law) supremacy doctrine. Secondly, departing from republican theory, I offer a conception of constitutional pluralism that makes it more resilient towards illiberal hijacks via the moving target of reduction of domination. Invoking examples from the case law of the Visegrád Four (Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) constitutional courts, I find minimum support for republican constitutional pluralism and identify elements of vulnerability towards illiberal hijacks in each jurisdiction, albeit on contrasting grounds. I conclude by arguing for the recapturing of the meaning of constitutional pluralism from illiberal actors by scholars and constitutional courts via embracing its republican conception.


Please register until 26.5.2024: konrad.lachmayer@jus.sfu.ac.at


Dr. Max Steuer is Assistant Professor at Comenius University in Bratislava, Department of Political Science, Visiting Researcher at the Central European University in Vienna, Department of Legal Studies (Action Austria—Slovakia program, Spring/Summer 2024), on leave as Associate Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University, Jindal Global Law School. His research centers on puzzles of democracy and constitutionalism in the European Union with a jurisdictional focus on Slovakia and Hungary, and thematic specialization on constitutional adjudication, militant democracy and extreme speech. His works appeared in European Constitutional Law ReviewEuropean Journal of Risk Regulation, International Journal of Human Rights, Legal Pluralism and Critical Social AnalysisMax Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law and elsewhere. Among his recent editorial responsibilities is a co-edited special section of the Jindal Global Law Review on ‘Cultural Expertise and Litigation in South Asia and Europe’ (2023). Max Steuer is principal investigator for the project ‘Illiberalism and the Constitution of the Slovak Republic: Political Discourse Analysis’ (Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic, 2023—25), coordinator of the educational and awareness-raising initiative Talking Courts (U.S. Embassy in Slovakia, 2023—24) and member of the Management Committee and Working Group on Theory of the COST Action ‘K-Peritia (Cultural Expertise Junior Network)’.