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State Sovereignty, Popular Sovereignty and Individual Sovereignty: from Constitutional Nationalism to Multilevel Constitutionalism in International Economic Law?


  • Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann


This paper discusses the basic constitutional problem of modern international law since the UN Charter: How can the power-oriented international legal system based on sovereign equality of states be reconciled with the universal recognition of inalienable human rights deriving from respect for human dignity and popular sovereignty? State representatives, intergovernmental organizations, international judges and non-governmental organizations often express different views on how far the universal recognition of human rights has changed the subjects, structures, general principles, interpretative methods and object and purpose of international law (e.g. by the emergence of erga omnes obligations and jus cogens limiting state sovereignty to renounce human rights treaties, to refuse diplomatic protection of individuals abroad, or domestic implementation of international obligations for the benefit of domestic citizens). The paper explains why effective protection of human rights at home and abroad requires multilevel constitutional protection of individual rights as well as multilevel constitutional restraints of national, regional and worldwide governance powers and procedures. While all European states have accepted that the European Convention on Human Rights and EC law have evolved into international constitutional law, the prevailing paradigm for most states outside Europe remains constitutional nationalism rather than multilevel constitutional pluralism. Consequently, European proposals for reforms of international economic law often aim at constitutional reforms (e.g. of worldwide governance institutions) rather than only administrative reforms, as they are frequently favoured by non-European governments defending state sovereignty and popular sovereignty within a more power-oriented international law among states.

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  • Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann, 2006. "State Sovereignty, Popular Sovereignty and Individual Sovereignty: from Constitutional Nationalism to Multilevel Constitutionalism in International Economic Law?," EUI-LAW Working Papers 45, European University Institute (EUI), Department of Law.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:euilaw:p0074

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    multilevel governance; international trade; fundamental/human rights;

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