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Mobilising the Constitution in the Covid-19 Pandemic. A comparative Legal Study of Germany and Italy

About the Project:

When the coronavirus spread rapidly in Germany, Europe and the world in March 2020, it quickly became clear that the pandemic not only posed a new challenge in terms of health, economic and security policy. Rather, it became clear that a pandemic can also become a constitutional problem. In many countries, it quickly sparked a remarkably multifaceted and critical constitutional debate characterised by an almost limitless expansion of constitutional assessment, argumentation and dissent.

Against this background, this project examines how the constitutions and constitutional law in Germany and Italy were mobilised to resist the coronavirus containment measures. How were constitutions used in the management of the coronavirus pandemic and how did they shape the discourse? What were the most debated constitutional issues of the pandemic? What similarities and differences can be identified between Germany and Italy? How can these be better understood or even explained?

In order to answer these questions, the critical constitutional law (scholarship) debates on the pandemic in Italy and Germany in recent years, which have produced a large number of contributions on the same topics, are summarised and reflected on from an ex-post perspective. The constitutional protagonists of the pandemic - i.e. above all legislators, government, courts, (constitutional) jurisprudence and civil society - are examined and portrayed. How have these actors dealt with the observed constitutional conflicts? How did the courts and constitutional law scholars in particular mobilise the constitution to resist the coronavirus measures restricting fundamental rights? How did they use arguments? Has this criticism based on the constitutional argument reached the legislative and executive branches? The methodological focus is on a contextual comparison of constitutional law in Germany and Italy. The comparative law study is complemented by a cultural studies approach as a further way of tracing the similarities and differences between constitutional states. This approach promises to open up a new perspective on the pandemic debates.

In this study, the constitutional criticism and its effects are to be placed in a larger context that encompasses the situation of constitutional thinking, constitutional culture and constitutional practice. By comparing Germany and Italy, the aim is to deepen the constitutional understanding of the two legal systems and to learn more about their constitutional structures and patterns of behaviour shaped by constitutional culture in times of crisis. This is because the responses of the constitutional law systems to the corona crisis are not only relevant for the current moment of the pandemic, but also provide broader information about the constitutional law systems and their ability to react to crises.




  • Hering, Laura: COVID-19 and Constitutional Law: The Case of Germany. In: Covid-19 and Constitutional Law. Covid-19 et droit constitutionnel, José María Serna de la Garza (ed.). Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico 2020, 149-156.
  • Hering, Laura: Exekutive Normsetzung in der Corona-Pandemie – Ein krisenverwaltungs- und verfassungsrechtlicher Vergleich zwischen Deutschland und Italien. . In: Die Verwaltung Beiheft, 365-398 (2022).
  • Hering, Laura: Parlamentarismus in Zeiten der Corona-Pandemie. Eine Gegenerzählung zur Verfallsgeschichte der Parlamente in der Gesundheitskrise.. In: Der Staat 61, 205-233 (2022).
  • Hering, Laura, Angelo Golia, Carolyn Moser, Tom Sparks: Constitutions and Contagion. European Constitutional Systems and the COVID-19 Pandemic. In: ZaöRV 1, 147-234 (2021).