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MEI Students’ Study Trip 2019


December 02 to 07, 2019

With a generous support and coordination by the Deutsche Stiftung fur Internationale Rechtliche Zusammenarbeit – IRZ, the MEI students, generation 2018/2019, had an extraordinarily useful and valuable opportunity to visit almost all important European institutions, and to obtain internal insights, new knowledge, and an innovative academic and professional experience. The study trip lasted from December 3 to December 8, 2019.

On Tuesday December 3rd, the group first arrived at the Council of Europe.

After an introductory lecture from the ECRI, we had a presentation of the Istanbul Convention and the work of the Council of Europe on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Some crucial points were made in the mentioned field, the most important being the lack of education not only among civilians and older people, but also among those working in the police and the institutions that provide help to the victims. The gender equality division of the Council expressed their worries regarding the fact that women are still not getting adequate help in the 21st century. The criteria for women’s rights isn’t being met still. They accentuated the fact that many courts seem to underestimate the rigidity of the laws that protect women, so we still have some questionable judgments in those cases. They explained how the Convention was being applied in different countries and how far they’ve come from the beginnings. All in all, the lecture was highly educational and it met all the standards in the way of spreading information and necessary knowledge regarding this particular and sensitive field. We left the room more worried, but also more determined to be a part of the change.

Next, we had a chance to attend a presentation dedicated to HELP: an e-learning platform on human rights. To begin with, the platform contains a huge variety of resources on the ECHR. They are available online and translated into several languages. The data on this platform is being constantly updated, so one can keep up the pace with the ongoing evolution of information. We were told that the platform offers 2 types of courses. On one hand: distance-learning courses targeted at selected groups of legal professionals, and on the other: self-learning resources, which were put in the spotlight, and which provoked the most interest among the listeners. Simply having an account on this platform enables a user to access all the resources for self-learning it provides. Furthermore, the platform also provides a wide range of advantages to its users. Some of these are: it is free of charge, interactive, one can choose the topic of his or her own interest and is not obliged to access all the topics and do all the exercises related to these, etc. Nevertheless, once the course completed, this platform provides us with a statement proving that we managed to complete the course, and that we possess certain knowledge of the topics covered. We had a chance to ask questions regarding the functioning of the platform and we obtained clear, direct and concise answers. In addition to that, some of the listeners even managed to make their own account and to see then and there what it looks like to use this platform. It is useful for students, but also for anyone interested in ECHR topics.

In the afternoon, the group visited the European Court of Human rights and met with Professor Lubarda, now judge of the European Court of Human Rights. The judge welcomed us in Strasbourg and spoke about the unfolding of a single case from the moment it enters the Court. He also explained that every judge needs to be familiar with each case. He told us about three cases – two of them were related to surrogacy and one was related to religious discrimination.
Another thing that the judge explained to the group was how the highest court of one country can ask them for an “advisory opinion” and then they are limited by the formulation of the question.
We also learned that sometimes, when the interested party dies before the decision is made, the Court gives a hypothetical response just to give countries an opinion they will be able to follow in the future.

On Wednesday, December 4th, the group visited the European Court of Human Rights.

We attended a hearing in the case of Mugemangango v. Belguim (application No. 310/15).

The case concerns a post-electoral dispute relating to the current Belgium system: Mr. Mugemangango alleged in particular that the procedure for the examination of the complaint which he lodged with the Wallon Parliament (the same body in relation to which the elections were held) to challenge the result of election was not accompanied by the minimum procedural safeguards against arbitrariness, inter alia because the Wallon Parliament was the only body with jurisdiction to determine his complaint.

The case was heard by the Grand Chamber, and Denmark and Venice Commission where allowed to intervene as the third parties.

By attending this hearing, our MEI group was able to see in practice not only the procedural steps in a case before the ECHR but also to get acquainted with the general atmosphere in the court and courtroom.

In the afternoon, the group visited the European Parliament.

The group took a tour through the building, aided by brochures and electronic guides with details about each part of the building. The last floor holds the Grand Chamber of Legislation, and on the second floor, in a small projection hall, an 8-minute film about the historical background and the activities of the European Parliament was being played. There were also devices that offered simple, informative games that at the same time provided a fun and educational experience.

On Thursday, December 5th, the group visited the Court of Justice of the European Union.

We attended the hearing in the case number C-74/19 Transportes Aereos Portugueses, that refers to the air carrier invoking extraordinary circumstances, regarding unruly passenger behaviour as a cause. TAP as the air carrier in question denied compensation for the flight delay (missed flight) having considered the unruly passenger as an exonerating element – extraordinary circumstance.

We were also guided through the court building and given detailed facts about the architecture and history of the Court.

The judicial staff helped us understand the functioning of the Court and the way the cases are assigned, as well as the multilinguistic aspect (how the cases are translated), the cooperation between different departments and the importance of lawyer linguists.

CJEU judge Marko Ilesic, a prominent teacher of commercial law from the law school of Ljubljana, held the lecture, offering an interesting, different perspective, afterwards engaging in a fruitful discussion with the members of the group.

On Friday, December 6th, the group visited the German Federal Constitutional Court.

We were guided through the building by one of the judge’s clerks who was more than polite, open for questions, and provided us with the most interesting facts that any member of the group would remember. He showed us a few videos about the history and the functioning of the Court, and the library, which is growing every day.

Perhaps the biggest impression on us was made by a judge of the German Federal Constitutional Court, Susanne Baer. The most important law-related question she clarified for us was how the decisions of the German constitutional court are balanced with EU law, since their “Holy Grail” is the German Constitution, and she thoroughly explained the whole procedure to us. Also, we learned that public hearings are scheduled only extraordinarily, when judges need more information about the facts of the case, otherwise they prefer to decide in non-public pleadings.
The judge also spoke about one «hip-hop» case, and noticed that even attorneys appear different from case to case depending on the topic.

After the meeting with judge Baer ended, the official part of the study trip was over.