Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

The Legitimacy and Effectiveness of Law & Governance in a World of Multilevel Jurisdictions

Is the legitimacy of law and governance of multilevel jurisdictions diminishing?” “What is the significance of (diminishing) legitimacy for the effectiveness of law?”

Wim Voermans

Life in our kind of modern society – a liberal democracy – is more than ever controlled by law. Relationships between parties in markets and society are determined by law to a major extent; our government applies law as a steering instrument on an unprecedented scale. We seem to need law as never before, and are becoming increasingly dependent on it. To have an anchor at our disposal in turbulent times, to be able to live together peacefully with those unfamiliar to us, to be able to trade on a global scale, and in particular to be able to live according to our own choices and preferences: pursuing happiness on our own terms.

This increased inclination towards law coincides with developments in which the rule of law and the formation of law no longer generally only occur within the nation state. These days we live in multilevel jurisdictions, certainly the case here in the Netherlands. Much of our law is established by the institutions of the European Union, the Council of Europe. Law is also increasingly laid down in conventions and treaties. This is all the result of deliberate and justifiable steps taken on a case-by-case basis. However, the end result of this increasing dependence on law in combination with an increase in laws, law formation and governance from non-national sources is causing tension and giving rise to fundamental questions. For example,

  1. What about the democratic legitimacy of law established by non-national sources?
  2. What say did those subject to the law have in that?
  3. How do we ensure that such supranational law is implemented and observed?
  4. What is the consequence if – as witnessed – parts of that supranational law are not or cannot be implemented or observed?

These kinds of questions about the legitimacy of the supranational formation of law, its application, and the policy and governance based on it are surfacing more than ever at this point in time.

Questions on legitimacy and effectiveness as new challenges

The programme The Legitimacy and Effectiveness of Law & Governance in a World of Multilevel Jurisdictions’ (hereafter: LELG) (2015-….) is not actually a new programme, but a continuation of the previous research programme with the addition of certain emphases. The LELG programme carried on from the subprogramme Trias Europea (2003-2015) of the research programme Securing the Rule of Law in a World of Multilevel Jurisdictions (hereafter: MLJ). Trias Europea looked at institutional relationships and the balance between official powers in the relationship between the Netherlands and the EU and among EU institutions. In recent years (2009-2014) this research has demonstrated how problems in the EU are increasingly solved or defused using law and in particular transnational law. The Trias Europea programme illustrated not only the blessings of an increased reliance on law, but also revealed the construction errors, gaps and dilemmas in the design of multilevel jurisdictions.

  • The first crucial question that arises is whether law has the capacity to resolve the major issues of our time; a task that has been assigned to it.
  • Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, questions exist that were touched on above, pertaining to the acceptability of steering society in this way and with this intensity using law in multilevel jurisdictions.

These analyses and issues were the reason for the Trias Europea research group to take the next step, encouraged by recommendations from assessment committees and the mid-term review to bring a clearer focus to the research.

More information about this programme can be read in the Self-assessment report 2009-2015