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The development of pan-European general principles of good administration by the Council of Europe and their impact on the administrative law of its Member States

Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Stelkens
Subject Area: Public Law
Funding: since 2015, funded by "Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)"


General

The project aims to explore the pan-European principles of good administration that are expressed in the rich trove of international conventions of the Council of Europe (CoE), recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the CoE, resolutions, recommendations and guidelines of its other various bodies (such as the ‘Venice Commission’) and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). They refer to each other contentwise and, hence, can be said to form a ‘coherent framework’, which specifies quite concrete legal requirements on administrative organization, administrative procedures and legal protection for the administrative law of the CoE Member states. However, the pan-European principles of good administration are only about legitimizing administrative action, ensuring the respect of the rule of law by the administration and protecting individuals from arbitrary power. Therefore, they concretize the values of the rule of law and democracy every CoE Member state must accept following Article 3 of the Statute of the CoE (SCoE). The main aim of the project is to systematically research legal sources, content and scope of the pan-European principles of good administration as well as their impact on national administrative law of the CoE Member States and thus fill an academic lacunae. “Phase 1” of the project will take stock of the legal sources of the pan-European principles of good administration, their scope and their thematic range. With the help of experts from 32 selected CoE Member States the project will furthermore assess their (possible) harmonizing impact on national administrative law, i. e. their ‘effectiveness’. On this basis, “Phase 2” of the project is intended to develop a ‘common frame of reference’ of the pan-European general principles of good administration that reflects on the normative expectations laid down in Article 3 SCoE with regard to the administrative law of the CoE Member states. This may not only be instrumental for the European countries in transition but also preclude (established) CoE Member States from lowering the standards of good administration through various reforms. In addition, such a framework used as a ‘tertium comparationis’ could facilitate legal comparison between the CoE Member States with their very different traditions of administrative law. The ‘common frame of reference’ may not only be drawn upon the case law of the ECtHR and the practice of other bodies of the CoE but also make use of national sources (e. g. national case law). In this way, it can prove that the pan-European general principles of good administration are part of the common European heritage reflecting shared experiences of good and bad administration.
As of today, two workshops have been organized for the project members (in 2017 and 2018), dedicated to continuing discussions on how the principles developed within the framework of the Council of Europe permeate domestic legal systems of its Member States as well as examining the findings of national country reports covering this topic. Furthermore, methodological approach for the cross-cutting analysis of the project together with an outlook for its future were in focus.