Sarajevo Study Trip 2020

In this year’s edition of the CCSDD Sarajevo Study Trip, our student group explored the post-conflict reconstruction process in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Through meetings with representatives of national institutions, major non-governmental organizations, international media outlets, educational institutions, and foreign diplomatic missions, participants gained a rich understanding of the triumphs, failures, and ambitions of rebuilding this war-torn country. The lessons learned from the trip are not only important for rebuilding BiH, but also other conflict-affected areas around the world.

The 4-day study trip kicked off with a citywide tour of Sarajevo spanning sites from the Bosnian War. On our tour, we had the opportunity to visit several significant historical and cultural sites, including the Historical Museum of BiH, and the Old Jewish Cemetery atop Mount Trebevic where Serb militias had taken key positions during the siege of the city. The tour allowed us to gain a sense of what Sarajevo endured during the conflict, and served as a proper introduction for meetings and discussions which followed during our visit.

The meetings addressed ongoing efforts being made by the international community to rebuild BiH. The first took place at Al Jazeera Balkans, where participants were given a chance to understand how the press operates in the Balkans today. Mass media entities like Al Jazeera continue to face numerous challenges in reaching out to viewers across the Balkans, especially considered the fractured political and national state of affairs. Next up, we visited the Italian Embassy where we met with the Ambassador of Italy to BiH. It was a great opportunity to learn about the country from a diplomat’s point-of-view and to understand the Western European relationship with BiH and the Balkans, as well as the intersection between European Union and Italian foreign policy. Later we visited the offices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which focuses on regional security, civil liberty, and freedom of the press. It was a great opportunity for students to learn about the most pressing social and political issues facing BiH today, including ethnic segregation in public schools and widespread government corruption. Following the meeting with OSCE, we met with representatives at the BiH Field Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It was astonishing to learn that 92,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) still exist in BiH today, as well as the nuances surrounding policy towards migrants and refugees. We also had an opportunity to discuss the effect of the European Migrant Crisis on BiH and how recent events have affected the reintegration process of IDPs in Bosnian society.

The second day of meetings began with visits to the UN Development Programme, the Constitutional Court of BiH, and the European Union (EU) Delegation to BiH. At the UNDP, our group further explored the political struggles faced by Bosnia and Herzegovina following the end of the Bosnian War and signing of the Dayton Agreement. Even today, the country relies on the signed accord as its constitution, with a rotating trilateral presidency elected by the Bosniak, Bosnian Serb, and Bosnian Croat populations. This has caused much gridlock, political corruption, and an inability to reform due to persistent nationalist sentiment promoted by the de facto political parties in the nation. Afterwards, we visited the Constitutional Court of BiH, where we met the president of the court and learned about the role of this legal body after the signing of the Dayton Accords in 1995. Today, there are three different constitutions that exist in the country, a constitution for the Federation of BiH, a constitution for Republika Srpska, and a constitution for the country as a whole. Constitutional reform presents one of many challenges to Bosnia in becoming a full-fledged EU member state.

The last day was the excursion to Potocari and Srebrenica where we visited the memorial to the victims of the genocide and met with survivors who lost family members. At Snaga Zene, The Mother’s of Srebrenica Association, we listened to first-hand accounts of the genocide and its legacy on various Bosniak communities throughout eastern BiH. Although it was an emotionally heavy and tragic visit, it was important to hear the mothers’ stories and understand the process for rebuilding their lives. Afterwards, we visited the memorial to the more than 8,000 men and boys who lost their lives at Srebrenica. We also had the chance to visit “The Dutchbat,” the United Nations compound where Dutch UN peacekeepers were encamped during the Srebrenica crisis. Now a museum, our group toured the area and heard from an on-site historian about his connection to the conflict and genocide.

In addition to the organized meetings and excursions of our study trip, participants had the opportunity to visit religious sites, taste local foods, and experience contemporary Bosnian culture. The trip was unique in that it was an opportunity to experience Bosnia of the past and Bosnia of today, and witness firsthand the challenges faced by this country. Ultimately, the CCSDD Sarajevo Study Trip was an academic success and was well-received by all participants.

Alex Ferraz

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“European Constitutional Courts and Transitions to Democracy” – Francesco Biagi

We are very pleased to announce that CCSDD Researcher Francesco Biagi’s new book, European Constitutional Courts and Transitions to Democracy, is out! The volume, published by Cambridge University Press, brings together research on democratization processes and constitutional justice by examining the role of three generations of European constitutional courts in the transitions to democracy that took place in Europe in the twentieth century. Using a comparative perspective, Biagi examines how the constitutional courts during that period managed to ensure an initial full implementation of the constitutional provisions, thus contributing – together with other actors and factors – to the positive outcome of the democratization processes. Congratulations Francesco!

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CCSDD visits Maastricht conference: “EU Agencies as ‘Inbetweeners’? The Relationship between EU Agencies and Member States”


This past Wednesday and Thursday (December 4-5), our very own Dr. Marko Milenkovic took part in the “EU Agencies as ‘Inbetweeners’? The Relationship between EU Agencies and Member States” conference at Maastricht. Dr. Milenkovic served as the chair of panel 6, titled “EU Agencies and Member States: political and judicial accountability.” During the conference, participants discussed future activities for The Academic Research Network on EU Agencies & Institutional Innovation (TARN) network.

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Queen Mate!

December 10, 2019

Justin O. Frosini, Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law

In his latest for Eastwest Magazine, Professor Frosini examines the September British court ruling that the prorogation of parliament called by Boris Johnson was illegal, and the ensuing divergent support base for the Queen after she approved Johnson’s advice. “It goes without saying that arguing in favour of abolishing the Monarchy is perfectly legitimate, but accusing the Queen of violating the Constitution because she did not stop Boris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation of Parliament is simply untenable.”

Read the full article here at

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Spring Break Trip to Tunisia

Sabrina Zechmeister, Johns Hopkins SAIS MA candidate and ILAW concentrator, visited Tunisia during spring break, together with a group of fellow SAIS students. During the trip, they had the opportunity to meet representatives of NGOs, the UNHCR and World Bank delegates discussing different topics such as migration, refugee and human rights protection, and exploring the progress on the democratic transition in the country.eafe754a-a8a5-484a-8d86-2605a9b0111a


This post summarizes some of the most meaningful meetings and insights from Sabrina’s trip that she felt were especially relevant to the Center’s research.

Students’ meetings:

  1. AL Bawsala,
  2. President’s advisor for youth affairs,
  3. World Bank,
  4. Arab Institute for Human Rights.

A representative of “Al Bawsala”, an NGO established under Tunisian Law, presented the organization’s three main fields of work:

  • Monitoring parliamentary activity;
  • Serving as an observatory on local authorities;
  • Examining the State’s budget, with the specific aim of identifying the use of government funds in the implementation of key policies.

During the meeting, the NGO representative also highlighted the importance of the recently drafted Constitution in the country’s democratization process. In particular, it was pointed out that the drafting was not based on a single model from another nation, but rather drew upon many foreign Constitutions, including the ones of France, Spain, Georgia, and Scandinavian countries. Additionally, it was noted that for the first time, civil society organizations are taking part in the transition process.

Finally, the meeting emphasized some recently passed laws that are contributing positively to the country’s democratization process, such as:

  • A law granting amnesty to economic agents that had transferred money abroad if the funds were transferred back to Tunisia and reinvested in the national economy,
  • A law imposing stiffer penalties for violent crimes against women.

The group also met with the President’s advisor for youth affairs, who also underscored the importance of engaging civil society members in Tunisia’s transition process. In particular, it was pointed out that the implementation of the constitution is a lengthy process and that engaging youth is of paramount importance. To this extent, it was noted that the youngest member on constitutional assembly was 23 years old, and that several policies are being put into place to ensure diversity and youth participation in the country’s political lists. It is mandated that the first 3 candidates on the list, for instance, should be 35 years old or younger and that, among the first 10, at least one should have a disability.

The President’s advisor again pointed out a few recently passed laws that were deemed particularly worth mentioning in detailing the progress of the transition:

  • The law on violence against women was mentioned again. This time, it was highlighted that the law broadened the definition of violence, raised the age of consent from 13 to 16 years old and also abrogated the law that allowed rapists to be pardoned if they married their victim. During the meeting, Tunisia was also presented as the first Arab country to achieve gender equality.
  • Tunisia’s “Start-up Act” was instead considered of particular importance in facilitating entrepreneurs to set up their business in the country, which before proved a cumbersome and lengthy process due to the heavy presence of red tape. The implementation of this law, however, was also noted to have been going rather slowly, due to recent economic imbalances in the country.

Finally, the students had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the World Bank and the Arab Institute for Human Rights.

The meeting with the World Bank’s representative noted that Tunisia is a socially stable country that so far has been fairly successful in transitioning to democracy. Some economic hardship, however, has recently hit the country, leading some segments of the population to start questioning the benefits of the revolution.

As such, the meeting pointed out three key issues that the country needs to address:

  • Political instability of the country, which makes it hard to attract foreign investments, ultimately hindering the local economy.
  • Massive brain drain, with 100’000 PhDs leaving the country every year to move primarily to Europe (80%) and the Gulf region (20%).
  • Government expenditure is currently too high and needs to be curbed to ensure the well-being of the national economy.

During the meeting with the Arab Institute for Human Rights, finally, the organization presented its work, primarily focused on capacity building and training to promote a culture recognizing universal human rights. Necessary steps to be taken in Tunisia, according to the organization’s view, involve working with traditional civil society organizations and institutions for capacity building and to establish a generalized rights-based approach, as well as reforming the security and school sectors. On this last point, the Institute also explained that extensive work is done with children in school to instill in them the notion of Human Rights and teach them the value of their protection.





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Election update, Author: Miriam Siemes, 23. 11. 2018

The end of an era

On October 29, Angela Merkel declared that she would not run for the party chair of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) again, a position she held for the past 18 years. It marks the beginning of her gradual retreat from politics, as Merkel will also not seek another term as chancellor in 2021 or any other political position thereafter. Merkel’s announcement came as a surprise, as she had in the past stressed the importance for party leadership and chancellorship going hand in hand. Holding both offices has served Merkel and previous chancellors well, as they do not have to assert themselves and their political course against a critical party leader.

For that reason, Merkel called her decision to hand over the office party leadership to a successor while remaining chancellor a risk, but one she considered necessary. For one, after the disappointing election results for her in the elections in Bavaria and Hessen, giving up the party leadership demonstrates to the voters that Merkel has understood the criticism of her politics. At the same time, Merkel believes that by remaining chancellor, she ensures that Germany has a stable coalition government.

Whether or not her political gamble plays out depends greatly on the new party chair of the CDU. As the implications of a German ‘lame duck’ Chancellor are possibly grave for a Europe in crisis mood, it is worthwhile thus to look at the most promising candidates.

The Candidates

Within days of the press announcement, a total of 12 hopeful candidates have officially announced that they would seek the position as party chair this coming December. Of those, three are granted a realistic chance.

Friedrich Merz (62) – the surprise

Having turned his back on politics nine years ago, Merz was the first to announce his interest in running for the position of party leader. The announcement received widespread attention and was met with great enthusiasm in many parts of the CDU. It is well known that Merz fell out with Merkel after she replaced him as CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader in 2002. Much of his appeal to circles within the party is thus due to his image as Merkel’s antipode. Merz stands especially for two things. First, Merz is an outspoken proponent of more traditional values. Back in 2000, Merz triggered widespread uproar when he coined the term ‘Leitkultur to describe a way of life that migrants to Germany should adhere to. Since then, other CDU politicians have revived the term, most notably the former President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert, Despite having more conservative views, Merz in the last weeks has emphasized that he is willing to cooperate with Merkel on these issues rather than confront her heads on. He recently claimed that he would not initiate a ‘conservative revolution’ should he secure the party leadership in December. Second, Merz stands for economic libertarianism, as he has made clear in his book ‘Let Us Dare More Capitalism’in 2009.  Indeed, 70% of executives of the German economy stated a preference for Merz.

Yet Merz’s closeness to the German economy could also prove to be his greatest weakness. Receiving widespread attention after announcing his interest in running for the party leadership, journalists have started to look into what Merz has been up to since he left politics. Since then, the momentum his candidacy had initiated has slowed. Instead, Merz has receiving negative publicity for calling himself part of the ‘upper middle class’ while also admitting to being a millionaire. Moreover, Merz is on the advisory board of an asset-management company, BlackRock, that earlier this month was subject to a police raid. Both instances have revealed Merz´s vulnerability.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (56) – Merkel’s choice

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is the current CDU’s general secretary. Before Merkel asked her to come to Berlin, Kramp-Karrenbauer headed a CDU-SPD coalition as minister-presidentin the federal state of Saarland. Her successful re-election in the spring of 2017 with staggering 40,7% was the first serious blowto the so-called ‘Schulz-train,’ the euphoria that former EP-President Martin Schulz triggered after being elected SPD president and candidate for chancellor. . Like Merkel, Kramp-Karrenbauer leans on some social issues more towards the left wing of the CDU. This for instance is reflected in her strong support for a quota for women. Yet, in other points Kramp-Karrenbauer has taken a more conservative stance than Merkel, making her appealing to other parts of the CDU as well. As such, Kramp-Karrenbauer has called for the introduction of amandatory social service year, is critical of marriage for all, and has questioned whether it is sensible to grant dual citizenship for Turkish citizens living in Germany.

Even with these differences, Kramp-Karrenbauer is unofficially Merkel’s preferred choice. With Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s gamble is likely to succeed. For one, the two women have worked closely together over the last few months. Moreover, their relationship is based on deep sense of appreciation. Merkel for instance once described Kramp-Karrenbauer’s decision to give up her position as Saarland’s minister to be the CDU’s general secretary, a position lower in rank, in trying times as touching. At this point, it remains to be seen whether Kramp-Karrenbauer’s closeness to Merkel might not harm her in her attempt to get elected as party leaders. After all, some voices in the CDU argue that electing Kramp-Karrenbauer will not constitute a reform or rebirth of the party, but instead will simply be a continuation of the Merkel era. Another obstacle on the way to the party leadership might be that Kramp-Karrenbauer is most popular in the Saarland, a federal state that contributes just 34 of the 1001 delegates to the CDU Bundesparteitag. In contrast, Merz and Spahn both come from NRW, a state that will send 259 delegates to the Bundesparteitag where Merkel’s successor will be elected in December.

Jens Spahn (38) – change of course

At only 38 Spahn is the youngest of the three most promising candidates. He entered national policy at the age of 22 when he was first elected to the Bundestag. His political breakthrough took place under former Minister of Finance and current President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, who named Spahn Parliamentary Secretary of State for Finance in 2015. In March 2018, he was named Minister of Health in Merkel´s fourth cabinet. His appointment however was not a sign of good will on Merkel’s part. Instead, it was an attempt by Merkel to please the more conservative voices in the CDU and to discipline Spahn,  one of her most vocal critics, until now with little success.

Spahn, like Merz appeals to the more conservative and youth circles of the party. Both are brilliant orators and Spahn is hoping to make a decisive impression at the Bundesparteitag. In the past, Spahn has been an outspoken critic of some of Merkel’s more liberal and progressive policies. For instance, in 2015, Spahn called Merkel’s welcoming migration policy a ‘disruption of the state’. For those reasons, it is doubtful whether Merkel and Spahn would be able to work smoothly together as Chancellor and party leader, putting into question the success of Merkel’s gamble. Many are doubtful that if Spahn or Merz areelected, Merkel would last as Chancellor beyond 2019.

What currently speaks against Spahn is his young age that some see as a lack of experience. Moreover, Spahn in the past has made negative headlines for seemingly arrogant remarks. As Minister of Health, he put into question whether receivers of minimum income in Germany should be considered as poor. Most importantly, Merz proves problematic to Spahn’s candidacy. Both candidates try to win votes from the conservative parts of the CDU. Both come from the same Bundesland, North Rhine Westphalia. With Merz receiving much of the attention, Spahn seems to struggle to set himself apart from the older candidate. On a last note, it remains to be seen in how far Spahn’s outspoken homosexuality influences his chances. While, it makes him appealing to the more liberal CDU members, it could cost him votes amongst the conservatives which both he and Merz are trying to win over.

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U.S. MIDTERM ELECTIONS 2018 A Referendum on Trump, Author: Cinzia Chiriac

The midterm elections on November 6th marked two years since Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. The elections represent the first test of how the Republican party is faring in the eyes of American citizens, and their results can significantly shape the remaining two-years of the Trump presidency.

For the first two-years of President Trump’s term, Republicans maintained control in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. With a GOP majority in the two chambers of Congress, Trump has been relatively successful in accomplishing several of his major goals. Efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have been initiated, a sweeping tax overhaul was signed into law, and two Supreme Court nominees are confirmed. But with a shift in party majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats can severely limit what the president can do in the final two years of his term.

In the House, 425 of 435 races are declared, and Democrats have achieved a majority. Capitalizing on anti-Trump anger and the retirement of many Republican incumbent representatives, Democrats were successful in securing 227 seats. To win control of the House, they needed a net gain of 23 previously Republican-held seats. So far, 35 seats have been flipped Democrat and only 3 of their earlier seats have been picked up by Republicans. In a best-case scenario, they could obtain as many as 237 seats.

However, the midterms weren’t a total loss for President Trump, as Republicans were able to maintain control in the Senate. With 33 of 35 races called, they will at least match their previous 51-49 Senate majority. Democrats were defending 26 of the total 35 seats up for election, 10 of these seats being in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. Several Republican candidates were successful in unseating Democrat incumbents in Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota, where Democrats flipped Republican seats in Arizona and Nevada. Their victory in Arizona means they were able to expand their reach into traditionally “red” territory – something they were very successful in achieving in the House, but have yet to do in the Senate. The final midterm results are contingent on senate races in Florida and Mississippi. A recount is under way in Florida’s governor and senate elections as the current margins have fallen within 0.5%, and pro-Trump Mississippi will face a runoff on November 27th. Most recently, the president urged Florida to call the governor and senate races in favor of Republican candidates Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis. If Scott were declared winner, he would unseat Democrat Senator Bill Nelson.

So what can Americans expect with a Democratic House and Republican Senate? The answer remains unclear. With their first House majority since 2010, Democrats have the capability to block Republican legislative agenda, in addition to controlling various oversight committees with the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas to further investigate President Trump and newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Although a Democratic House may introduce articles of impeachment against both Trump and Kavanaugh, the reality is that without a Democrat majority in the Senate, a vote to remove the two from office remains highly unlikely.


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