Courts in Europe are cooperating with each other in order to better fulfill their tasks. In fact, they are often explicitly required to do so. This also holds true for courts with constitutional functions that carry a special responsibility for European legal development. The intensity of this cooperation is reflected in the term “Multilevel Cooperation of the European Constitutional Courts” (Europäischer Verfassungsgerichtsverbund). This cooperation contributes not only to European unity but also safeguards democracy and the rule of law at a time when such constitutional principles are being questioned in parts of Europe. Against this background, the Verbund is confronted with novel questions, which the Heidelberg Discussion Group addresses.
The Discussion Group was founded by Armin von Bogdandy, Christoph Grabenwarter, Peter M. Huber, and Andreas Voßkuhle in 2016. Its annual seminars bring together judges and scholars from all over Europe in a confidential setting to discuss those questions. In 2017, the Group dealt with the topic of “Constitutional Courts and the Media” as well as “The Appointment of Judges”. The issues of “Mutual Trust in the European Legal Space” and “Tools to Confront the European Rule of Law Crisis” were covered in 2018. The subject matter of 2019 was the culture and form of judicial dialogue in the European legal space. The 2020 meeting was postponed to 2021, due to the Corona crisis.
Through the choice of its topics and the design of its forum, the Group facilitates and stimulates an exchange that contributes to a better mutual understanding of the different legal systems, including their judicial practice. The experiences that the courts have gained throughout their long or short, often turbulent, histories, are a precious resource for the Verbund. To make even better use of it, such experiences should be shared, explained and questioned, as well as examined together with scholars. To foster exchanges about common challenges and possible solutions is another of the Discussion Group’s goals, alongside raising awareness of the threats to the effectiveness and independence of constitutional adjudication.