The authors of the Ius Publicum Europaeum series join efforts to address the structural transformation of public law in Europe. The concept of Ius Publicum Europaeum describes the public law of the European legal area that is composed of European Union law and the laws of its Member States as well as other legal sources, such as the law of the Council of Europe. The project stands in the context of the crises of the last years, be it the financial crisis, the debt crisis, the refugee crisis, systemic deficiencies, or the fading confidence in democratic self-government. Europe has lost much of its promise, creating a certain impression of 'messiness'. This is the challenge the Ius Publicum series confronts, a challenge it seeks to help overcome (Armin von Bogdandy, The Idea of European Public Law Today, MPIL Research Paper Series 2017-4).
I. The significance of comparative law in the European legal area
Comparative law plays a central role in the evolution of the Ius Publicum Europaeum. Scholarly work is required that provides access to the foundations of other European legal systems, in particular to their pivotal historic moments, stages of development, systematic foundations, as well as to their modes and styles of legal thinking. The reasons for the central role of comparison are various: it renders the common constitutional and administrative traditions of EU Member States - a major source of Union law - accessible. The principle of loyalty, moreover, demands comparison, in particular when it comes to questions of public law. Often, regulatory models of a European legal act as well as judicial decisions by a European court are only to be grasped and the initiated transformation of national public law to be understood by means of comparison. Legal comparison and knowledge of other systems of public law may help civil servants in a European and transnational legal environment to understand and adapt to the positions of colleagues as well as enrich their own arguments.
Add the same time, the challenge comparative law faces is huge. Foreign law is alien law. Legal sources and fundamental legal principles may be difficult to capture. The terminology often varies. Equivalent terms may have taken on different meanings due to different trajectories in their development. Moreover, these differences are not always easy to identify. Legal terms may only receive their full scope of meaning in relation to other terms or through practical application.
II. The approach of the Ius Publicum Europaeum project
The Ius Publicum Europaeum project aims to meet the challenges the study of comparative public law in the European legal area pose through intensive research co-operation and research projects at the Max Planck Institute. The Handbuch Ius Publicum Europaeum has been the first project in this regard. It has been financially supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and is published by C. F. Müller since 2007. The multi-volume publication pays particular attention to national constitutional and administrative orders, their reciprocal influence as well as their receptivity for supranational integration and co-operation between states.
The Handbuch has brought to the fore the demand and necessity for linking the project with the English-speaking discourse as well as for embedding it within the global discourse on public law. (see the Mission Statement of the International Society of Public Law). As the interest in the project has steadily grown beyond a German-speaking audience, the project went into its next phase with the launch of the Max Planck Handbooks in European Public Law published by Oxford University Press. This separate yet related project draws from the German handbook, but aims at addressing a more global audience.