Regional Constitutional Court Conference on the Protection of the Right to Family Life

During the online conference
During the online conference

On 8 October 2021, IRZ and the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Serbia organised a regional conference of constitutional courts on the “Protection of the right to respect for family life in constitutional court practice”. The conference, which was made possible thanks to project funds from the German Foreign Office, has been held for many years with the participation of the constitutional courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia. The importance attached to the conference by the participating constitutional courts is reflected in the fact that it was primarily the presidents of the constitutional courts who presented their case law:

  • Mato Tadić, President of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
  • sc. Kata Senjak, President of the Constitutional Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Irena Mojović, Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of Republika Srpska, and
  • sc. Miroslav Šeparović, President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia
  • Budimir Šćepanović, President of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro
  • Dobrila Kacarska, President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of North Macedonia
  • Snežana Marković, President of the Constitutional Court of Serbia
  • Prof. Dr Špelca Mežnar, a judge at the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia

The German perspective was contributed by IRZ expert Prof. Dr. Udo Steiner, a retired judge from the German Federal Constitutional Court, who presented the relevant case law of the Federal Constitutional Court.

The Permanent Representative of the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Serbia, Dorothea Gieselmann, gave the welcome speech at this event. She emphasised that this series of events, which began many years ago, provides an important forum for professional cooperation. She added that the conference was dealing with a highly topical issue in terms of legal policy, constitutional law and human rights, which is the subject of controversial debate in Germany, the EU and the region due to changes in social perceptions and advances in biomedicine. 

This conference is of particular importance due to the prominent position of the constitutional courts in the legal systems of their respective countries. Their decisions make a significant contribution to the enforcement of a European standard of human rights, to the unification of the law, and to relieving the workload of the ECtHR. During the event, the speakers pointed out, among other things, that the constitutional courts involved already apply the review procedure of the ECtHR in Strasbourg. 

The practical importance of the issue was demonstrated by various decisions that established the unconstitutionality of state measures but also of legal provisions. In connection with the latter topic, the question of the relationship between the Constitutional Court and Parliament was also intensively discussed under the heading “Constitutional Courts as negative or as positive legislators”.

In order to support the sustainability of the conference and to make its topics available to as large an expert audience as possible, IRZ will publish the papers in its “Jahrbuch für Verfassungsrecht” (Constitutional Law Yearbook).

Block seminar on “German legal terminology: Challenges, chances, opportunities” with the Faculty of Law in Novi Sad

During the seminar
During the seminar

From 16 to 18 July 2021, IRZ organised a block seminar on German legal terminology with the Faculty of Law in Novi Sad, Serbia. The online event, which was attended by around twenty people, was aimed at German-speaking students and alumni of the faculty, as well as at other German-speaking lawyers from the region.

The objective of the seminar was to encourage potential opinion formers in terms of German legal terminology, since this occupies a special position in the continental European legal sphere. Due to the distinctive systems and terminology, knowledge in this regard opens up important additional sources of information for the participants' work. The lecturer Dr. Marko Knežević illustrated this with the statement that civil proceedings law in Serbia cannot be understood without German technical and language knowledge, as this is strongly oriented towards German and Austrian law in Serbia.

The event was opened by:

  • Prof. Dr. Bojan Tubić, Vice Dean for International Relations at the University of Novi Sad and Deputy Minister for Higher Education at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, and
  • Lawyer Dr. Stefan Pürner, head of the “South Eastern Europe I” section at IRZ.
  • As a representative of the German Embassy in Belgrade, Daniel Mohseni particularly emphasised in his welcoming address that the German Foreign Office has been sponsoring a legal terminology course at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade for many years and that its positive results had prompted the faculty in Novi Sad to ask IRZ for cooperation in this field.
  • Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Detlev W. Belling from the Faculty of Law in Potsdam welcomed the participants. His faculty offers a German-language LL.M. programme together with the University of Novi Sad and the University of Szeged in Hungary.

The participants showed a great deal of interest and special competence in the German language. This made the seminar highly interactive and practical. As head of the legal terminology course at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade and author of the only textbook of German legal terminology in Serbia, Danka Stojaković gave a practical insight into the challenges and subtleties of German legal language. The conclusion of their practical exercises was: “English is a must, German is a plus.”

With their testimonials, several alumni of the legal terminology course in Belgrade and a former trainee lawyer illustrated the various possibilities for using the German language in the legal field. In the meantime, the alumni are completing a Master's or doctoral programme on German law.

In order to create a pleasant and relaxed working atmosphere despite the online format, an informal online dinner was included in the programme, which was very positively received by the participants and provided an opportunity for personal exchange. A legal quiz provided variety and humorous technical discussions.

The case method as a contribution to practice-oriented legal training

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 11 May 2021, the first of a series of workshops was held on the "Case method as a contribution to practice-oriented legal training". The workshop was organised jointly by the Belgrade Institute of Comparative Law and IRZ.

The series of events aims to offer ideas for a stronger integration of the expert opinion method in the training and examination of future lawyers.

The Director of the Belgrade Institute, Professor Vladimir Čolović, and IRZ Head of Section Dr Stefan Pürner opened the event, which was organised as a round table. There were then keynote speeches, each of which was followed by rounds of questions and comments. The results were finally summarised in a general discussion.

The speakers were selected in such a way that they each reported from a different perspective on their experiences with the expert resolution of complex legal cases.

The first keynote speech was given by Professor Zlatan Meskić, who completed his legal training including his doctorate in Vienna and had therefore already familiarised himself with the case method as a student. As a university lecturer, Professor Meskić uses this method in his own courses at the University of Zenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Prince Sultan University in Saudi Arabia.

Professor Meskić's lecture was followed by a presentation by lawyer Nicola Dašić. He is an alumnus of the course in German legal terminology offered by IRZ in Belgrade and has successfully completed a Master's degree in German law in Bonn. Nicola Dašić reported from the perspective of a Serbian graduate who only got to know the German legal education system after his training.

The final presentations were given by the criminal law expert Professor Nataša Mrvić Petrović and the civil law expert Professor Miloš Živković from Belgrade. Both work intensively with the case method in their courses.

Despite the online format, intensive discussions took place between the almost 30 participants from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina after the presentations, which lasted far beyond the scheduled event time.

One of the results of this exchange of ideas was that the case method is mainly used by younger university lecturers. However, since the exams are still held by professors who use the traditional method and have individual questions answered orally, a large proportion of students still see training in solving complex cases as an avoidable additional expense.

This is all the more regrettable because, according to some participants, the lack of practical case work and the written elaboration of solutions is also reflected in the poor quality of the judgements, even of higher courts. These are often decided without systematic examination and justification according to general considerations of legality. Since the uniformity and reviewability of case law also suffers as a result, this leads to legal uncertainty in the long term. Therefore, overriding rule of law issues would also speak in favour of making the case method compulsory in legal education.

The workshop series will continue with an event on legal training in Germany and the detailed presentation of training cases from the field of private international law.