The Institute was founded in 1924 and located at the Berlin Palace. In 1949, the Institute was established anew as the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht) in Heidelberg by the Max Planck Society.
Scholars presently employed by the Institute pursue their own research or participate in collective projects relating to basic issues and current developments in the areas of public international law, European Union law and the constitutional and administrative law of individual states, often in a comparative perspective. In addition, numerous scholars from all over the world visit the Institute for stays lasting several weeks, months or even years to work on the same wide range of topics that interest its staff. These visiting scholars
are closely involved in the Institute’s activities
, especially the weekly Monday Meeting of the research staff, the directors’ research seminars, discussion groups
on specific subject areas, and other events. As a result, a lively academic exchange exists among these visitors and the Institute’s research fellows.
A key research tool for both the staff and the visiting scholars is the library. It holds more than 645,000 volumes and offers access to more than 25,000 journals and periodicals. In the areas of public international law, European Union law and comparative public law, the library is the largest in Europe and one of the most comprehensive in the world.
The Institute has traditionally performed important advisory functions for domestic and, especially, international public institutions. It provides the German Federal Constitutional Court, the German Bundestag and the ministries of the German Federal Government and the Länder governments with information, expert testimony and counsel on questions of public international law, European Union law, and other public law. The Institute is represented by Anne Peters
on the Council of International Law of the German Federal Foreign Office; Armin von Bogdandy
was a member of the German Council of Science and Humanities .
Directors of the Institute have previously served and presently serve on international courts and other important bodies: inter alia in the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and in the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (Anne Peters); at the OECD Nuclear Energy Tribunal and in the Scientific Committee of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (Armin von Bogdandy); at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and in the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Rüdiger Wolfrum); in the European Commission on Human Rights (Jochen A. Frowein); at the German Constitutional Court and the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration (Helmut Steinberger); at the European Court of Human Rights (Rudolf Bernhardt and Hermann Mosler); at the International Court of Justice (Hermann Mosler).
This is reflected in its involvement in international research projects as well as its hosting of many visiting foreign researchers and the visiting professorships of the directors.
From 2012-2016 Anne Peters
was a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the European University Institute (Florence) and until 2018 a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Berlin Social Science Research Center (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin). Anne Peters is a member of the Council of International Law of the German Federal Foreign Office (since 2013) and Member of the Research Advisory Board: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (the German Institute for International and Security Affairs) SWP. She has, moreover, held visiting professorships, inter alia
, at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, Sciences Po, Beida University in Beijing and Michigan University. Since 2019 Anne Peters is chairwoman of the German Society of International Law (DGIR).
The Institute runs an LL.M. programme in international economic law together with the University of Santiago de Chile and the law faculty of the University of Heidelberg. The Institute has also developed close research ties with the Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas of the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) and with the law faculty of the University of Basel.