Research program

Recent developments of governance and multi-level government have impacted on public law. Our research group examines the fundamental questions raised by the exercise of authority at lower and higher levels of governance and by non-state actors: how do public agents function in this new environment, and how should we deal with questions of legitimacy and accountability, rule of law, and respect for fundamental rights derived from there?

Inasmuch as national constitutions are insufficient to secure these principles, the research group inquires at the normative level how ideas of justice, rights and democracy need to be rethought in a multi-level, multi-actor context and through what form public law would be suitable in this institutional context to realise these values.

This programme covers as units of analysis public institutions at the local, regional, federal, European and international level, as well as non-state actors in so far as they take on a prominent role in the public sector.  It analyses the legal framework for the functioning of public institutions and its relations with citizens and the industry.

To this end, it aims at a multi-dimensional approach, based on intra- and interdisciplinary research next to doctrinal legal approaches, and supported by a broader foundational framework of legal theory.

The program aims to present the University of Antwerp on a national and international level as a research centre of public law which transcends traditional branches of law and disciplines.

Purposes and research questions

The program covers four lines of research which emphasize different but overlapping topics.

Multilevel good governance. This priority research line fits the UA’s ‘Emerging Research Domain’ on federalism, multilevel governance and globalization. The evolution towards a ‘multilevel’ context and a ‘governance’ model within this multi-level context, as well as its impact on fundamental legal principles, accountability, fundamental rights, institutional design, informal processes and substantive rules are put central.

Governance and public decision making. This line, rather than studying the interdependence of different legal orders (i.e. the ‘multilevel context’), focuses on aspects of governance within a single political level. Principles of proper rule-making, administration and due process are regarded as guiding precepts in this regard. Considerable attention is paid to the way in which various public and private actors become partners in legislative, administrative and judicial decision-making.

Governance in diverse societies. This research line focuses on the legal challenges to governance in diverse societies. A diverse society is understood as a society composed of members with different national, cultural, religious, regional and/or ethnic identity. The research comprises access of non-citizens to residence and citizenship, citizenship as a tool for full membership of society and the exercise of rights and freedoms by members of a diverse society, particularly those in a minority position. The research also comprises diversity on the labour market, more specifically the rights of non-citizens to enter the labour market as well as their rights to employment protection and social benefits in the context of non-discrimination and promotion of social integration in the host society.

Rule of law and constitutionalism. This research line feeds the former ones by providing both a theoretical framework on fundamental principles of constitutional law and a more empirical account of the role of the various actors in both constitutional law and constitutional practice, such as Constitutional Courts, Parliament or political parties.