Starting February 2004, the Institute for European Studies is organising a series of lectures on the European Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference. Under the auspices of academic coordinator Prof. De Gucht, and chaired by IES President Bart De Schutter, the IES welcomes a number of high-level speakers to highlight one specific point of the Convention. The lectures take place every Tuesday at 18:00 in Aula QC of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
On 10 February, a full aula witnessed the first session of our lecture series on the European Convention. Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt gave a compelling talk on the challenges for the European Union. In his speech, he pointed out which problems still remain regarding the approval of a “constitution” for Europe: qualified majority voting, the future of the “community model” and the budgetary contributions of the member states. Numerous questions came from the audience on the EU as a World actor, the problems of decision-making with 25 or more states, the possible membership of Turkey and the financial envelope for developing countries after enlargement.
Under wide attention of students and external public, Prof. Karel De Gucht (VUB) lectured on 17 February on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, advocating the current proposal of integrating the Charter into the new European Treaty. Prof. De Gucht demonstrated why it is necessary for the Union itself to become one of the signatories of the Charter. The lecture resulted in an interesting Q&A session with the audience.
Prof. Dr. Koen Lenaerts (KULeuven, Judge at the European Court of Justice) gave a lecture on 24 February on whether the legal nature of the text of the Convention is such that we can speak of a true European Constitution. While pointing out that the characteristics of a true Constitution are indeed present, he emphasized that a single Constitutinal text could also contribute to the visibility of the Union as one entity, as compared to the opaque pillar structure. The one characteristic the EU is missing is that of ‘a State’, but Prof. Lenaerts was convinced that if that is required, the Union will never have a Constitution, since it is not its aim to become a State as such. In the Q&A session he provided the audience with very detailed answers to the specific questions.
Current European Parliament member and former chairman of the European Parliament José Maria Gil-Robles addressed the IES-audience on 2 March with his lecture on “the institutions: towards a new balance?”. Sr. Gil-Robles outlined the new checks and balances that are proposed in the draft Constitutional Treaty, and showed himself optimistic that the problems encountered at the latest Summit meeting in December will be resolved soon.
The lecture series on the European Convention will continue through the end of April, and includes speakers such as Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Dr. Antonio Vitorino, on the “new balance” of the institutions, Prof. Dr. Maarten Theo Jans and Prof. Dr. Kris De Schouwer (both from the Department of Political Science, VUB) on the steering capacity and the democratic deficit of the Union respectively, Kyle Scott (Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Mission to the EU) giving “a view from without”, and Prof. Dr. MacCormic (University of Edinburgh, and member of the Convention) on the European competences and tools.
The lectures on the Convention are the third such series organised by the IES. The first series on Globalisation resulted in the book “About Globalisation” (see further in this Newsletter), while a publication on European Security (following the lecture series on the same subject) is in preparation.
A series on European Environmental Law and Sustainable Development will be organised in the fall of this year.
IES Book announcement: About Globalisation
Following the successful lecture series on Globalisation in the Spring of 2003, the Institute for European Studies recently published a book on the subject, comprising the contributions of the lecturers to the series. With contributions by Jarrod Wiener, Ricardo Petrella, Immanuel Wallerstein, Brigid Gavin, Bruno de Vuyst, Heikki Patom”ki, Wolfgang Kleinwachter, Servaas Van Thiel, Benoit Frydman and Garry Madison, the book covers different disciplinary approaches. IES Researchers Johan Kaes and Johan Pas also contributed to the book, while the latter and IES President Bart De Schutter were responsible for the editing.
Globalisation is probably one of the most controversial issues of the last decade, but too often it has been looked at from within one discipline only. The present book presumes that,due to its different aspects, globalisation can only be grasped from within a multi-disciplinary approach. Therefore, the different authors look at the isssue from within politics, law, philosophy, etc. ...
Specific attention goes to topics such as information and communication technology, intellectual property rights and currency transaction taxation. The book can be ordered at VUB Brussels University Press, Waversesteenweg 1077, B-1160 Brussel (Belgium) email: email@example.com. It costs § 27.50 ($ 39.90). More info can be obtained from IES, or on the website: publications/
Focus on Research:
An income tax focuses on the taxation of a person on his (worldwide) income. This has been translated through the creation of direct taxes. Consequently all elements contributing to the formation of taxable income have to be linked to a certain entity in order to make part of the taxable income of that entity.
This so-called entity principle is a method of ‘tax calculation’ which stresses the need for individual tax accounting for every separate entity. This leads to the phenomenon that the same – for tax purposes relevant – element is taken into account for at least two taxpayers
By far, the clearest example of the above mentioned phenomenon is seen in the immediate interconnection between the relevant elements for taxation purposes of a corporation on the one hand and the relevant elements for taxation purposes of its shareholders, creditors, employees, etc. on the other hand. The dominating aspect of this relationship is indeed the returns which – in a high degree – corporations simply pass to the above mentioned categories of taxpayers.
It is possible to make a distinction between original and transfer tax elements. Original tax elements can be roughly described as the total amount of turnover a company realises. Transfer tax elements can be described as the income a certain subject derives from a company without using the same element for professional purposes.
The distinction mentioned allows the proposal of a more comprehensive taxation model which encompasses, besides income taxation, other forms of taxation. The basic idea is to create a taxable moment each time an original tax element is ‘distributed’. Such a tax can be modelled as an indirect tax by expanding the tax liability of the ‘distributing’ companies. The existence of a tax on distributed tax elements creates for each receiving entity a possible input of taxed returns. Further tax consequences depend on whether or not the beneficiary itself can be labelled as a company.
The proposed idea – the technical aspects of which have to be further examined – opens the way to several solutions in the difficult field of international tax law. Firstly, the increased mobility of financial and intellectual capital, sophistication in legal transactions, institutions and business practices, and technological improvements in the transportation of people, things and information, have challenged the traditional concepts of income taxation. A tax on the distribution of taxable elements could provide a possible answer in view of the fact that a reference to the profit-making entity would no longer be necessary. The localisation of the taxable event would become easier.
Secondly, the complexity of traditional income taxation schemes could be reduced because of the fact that the so-called “withholding function” of corporate taxation is fully made use of in the sense that the withholding function is enlarged to all distributions made by all companies. This permits the collection of tax with the least political effort. Technical inspiration could be found in the VAT-system, the procedure of which has proved to be more adapted to international tax issues. This implies that basically no tax liabilities weigh on the beneficiaries of transfer tax elements.
Thirdly, a reference to the origin of income could enable wishes of developing countries to be taken into account. Reference can be made to an Indian report on taxation and electronic commerce. It was concluded that in order to preserve, or reclaim, traditional receipts based on source taxation, the concept of permanent establishment should be abandoned and replaced with a “base erosion” approach, imposing a low rate of withholding tax on all tax-deductible payments to foreign enterprises. This idea has certain characteristics in common with the idea proposed here above.
Fourthly, for international taxation purposes, the traditional ideas concerning the attribution of the competence to levy taxes based on the distinction between the home state and the source state would no longer be useful in view of the fact that this distinction is based on the residence of the entity which earns the income.
|Back to Top|
The IES Senior Research Fellows appointed
Following the decision by the IES Board to appoint three Senior Research Fellows, the institute for European Studies is proud to welcome Dr. Giovanna Bono, Dr. Marc Pallemaerts and Mr. Richard Lewis as the three new “seniors” in our midst. They were selected by the Board out of 20 candidates, following an expert report made by three external academics and the advice of the University’s Research Council.
She worked formerly at the WEU Institute for Security Studies in Paris (now: EU Institute for Security Studies) where she contributed to policy-oriented publications, seminars and task forces on European defence and security issues.
Her achievements have included managing the European Union Social Science Information Research Facility (EUSSIRF), based at the London School of Economics (London) and at EUI in Florence; undertaking consultancy and research projects for Andersen Consulting, the Open University Business School, and the Guardian Newspaper.
She specialises in NATO, ESDP, international relations theory, and the foreign policies of Britain, Germany and the United States.
He has published prolifically and is editor or co-editor of half a dozen scientific books or magazines. His main interests are in the field of environmental law and sustainable development. As such, he is President of the Belgian Society for Environmental Law and member of the Commission on Environmental law of the World Conservation Union (IUCN)
Prior to his appointment at IES, he was a principle administrator in the Directorate-General for Justice and Home Affairs at the European Commission, and had previously worked at DG External Relations and DG Agriculture. He was European Union Fellow at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, where he later became responsible for the European Integration course.
His interests include “migration and asylum”, “human rights” and “conflict resolution”. He is a guest lecturer at Duke University, the University of Strasbourg, the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and at a dozen other universities in Europe and the United States.
|Back to Top|
New researchers at the Institute
Two new researchers have joined the Institute since January.
|Coming from Ireland, but living in Belgium for the past 8 years, Aaron MacLoughlin will be working on an externally financed project headed by Prof. Dr.Marc Pallemaerts, entitled “The Role of Public Authorities in Integrated Product Policy: Regulators or Coordinators?”. This research project is funded by the Belgian Federal Public Service for Science Policy. Prior to his appointment at IES, Aaron worked at the European Commission. He holds a Law degree from Nottingham Trent University, an LL.M in European Law from Essex University and is currently finalizing his PhD at Imperial College, London.|
|Stephen Kingah is a doctoral research
student working on a project under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Stefaan
Smis, entitled “European Policy towards Regional Integration
in Sub-Saharan Africa. A legal analysis of its formulation, implications
and implementation”. Stephen will work in close co-operation with
the Comparative Regional Integration Studies centre of the United Nations
University (in Brugge), as his project is part of the collaboration
agreement between IES and UNU-CRIS.
Prior to his appointment at IES, Stephen studied Legal Theory at the Katholieke Universiteit Brussel (KUB). Stephen is Cameroonean, and has lived in Brussels since 2003.
|Bruno de Vuyst has been accepted as associate researcher of the Institute. He is a lawyer at a Brussels law firm, and associate professor at Vesalius College and Boston University. He holds a law degree from the University of Antwerpen and an LL.M. from Columbia. Prior to his research activities, he worked at the World Bank and at Citibank. He is visiting professor at Cornell (US) and chairman of the Antwerp-based Raamtheater.|
|Help in need is help indeed! And helping us with the organisation of our activities, but also with reconstructing our databses is Marjan Vermeiren, student of Romance languages at VUB.|
|Back to Top|
IES News in Brief
IES Doctoral Research Fellow Rhiannon Williams publishedan article called “Access to documents held by European Institutions with particular regard to Environmental Infringement procedures, or the emperor’s new clothes, and the chimera of “Amicable Dispute Resolution”, in “Ten Years of Access to Environmental Information in International, European and Belgian Law: Stocktaking & Prospections”, Bruylant, Brussels, ed. Christine Larssen.
Rhiannon also published an opinion piece in the newspaper “De Standaard”, on the growing fear of developing countries that the cost of EU enlargement will largely be funded by money that otherwise would be spent on development aid. Rhiannon advocates that this shift of funding is contrary to the Union’s legal commitments with regard to development aid to the least developed countries.
IES Associate Researcher Georges Lichtenstein published an article in association with prof. Paul De Hert of the VUB, entitled “Huiszoeking in geautomatiseerde omgeving”, in Custodes: Huiszoeking en Beslag,(ed.) M. BOCKSTAEL, 2004, 1, p. 59-74. Earlier last year, both published another article in “Private Veiligheid” (vol. 19, December 2003, p. 36-37) entitled “Europa opent centrum voor cyberveiligheid: over de oprichting van het European Network and Information Security Agency”
Ecuadorian Alexandra Chamba, a student of the LL.M. programme “Energy and Environment Law” from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, is currently doing a stage at IES. Under the supervision of Senior Research Fellow Marc Pallemaerts, she is contributing to the project “The Impact of Globalisation on the European Community's Environment and Development Law”.
On April 7th, IES Researcher Johan Kaes will attend the SLSA Annual Conference at the University of Glasgow. He will present his paper on “Protection of Technology within a Globalised Market”
On Tuesday 2 March, a group of 17 students from Chistopher Newport University (Virginia, USA) visited the Institute for lectures on European integration. Following introductions by Anthony Antoine and Ruben Lombaert, they attended the guest lecture in the series of the Convention by José-Maria Gil-Robles.
IES and UNU-CRIS are organising a seminar on Regional Security and Global Governance. On 26 May, the University will host scholars scrutinizing the relationship between the UN Security Council and Regional Organisations such as the EU. Prof. Dr. Ann Pauwels is helping IES with the coordination of the seminar.
On 22 and 23 January, Rhiannon Williams attended a conference at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, on the relationship between Africa and the EU. At this conference, she presented a paper on “The (in)significance of the EC Treaty provisions on EU development aid to Africa and some possible implications of the draft EU Constitution”. The paper will be published as part of the proceedings of the conference.
|Back to Top|
The Democratic dignity of a thin constitution
Against the Charter of fundamental Rights of the European Union
By Paul De Hert, Professor of Jurisprudence at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
It is well known that liberal thinkers adhere to the idea of a thin constitution. In the work of the famous philosopher John Rawls there is an explicit preference for such a constitution. Rawls’ points of departure are the fundamental differences between citizens in the Western world (the ‘fact of pluralism’). When policy would be grounded on values that are not generally shared by everyone, violence would be called upon to impose them (‘the fact of oppression’). To avoid the use of violence, a pluralistic and democratic society must therefore turn to political principles that can be accepted by all, regardless of their (religious or political) world-view. A constitution should therefore contain only a limited scheme identifying ‘truly’ basic liberties -consisting exclusively of individual liberty rights- to avoid controversy. Within the Rawlsian framework there is thus no reason to see progress in long or ethically inspired bills of rights.
Dutch and Belgian authors such as Maurice Adams, Heysse and Goossens
refute the idea of a thin constitution. They see in it a model that
is not suited to understanding the current process of European Constitutionalism.
Keeping a constitution slim is a conservative project that neglects
the true nature of tradition in democratic states. Tradition cannot
be consulted but has to be re-interrogated. It is no fixed good, but
the continuously changing result of political debate. The lawgiver
has therefore the important task of continuing this debate about fundamental
values and to intensifying it. Thinking ahead, in this perspective,
means looking back at the values that have been important for us.
In order to discuss new problems, the lawmaker and the society as
a whole have to reunite around values by continually debating and
reflecting upon them. Democracy, the argument goes, is precisely this.
Defining new rights is part of the democratic process. Maurice Adams,
professor at Antwerp University, writing in the context of bio-medical
questions, would have no difficulty, so it seems to us, with the current
European process of constitutionalism, (recalling past history in
the Preamble and containing extensive chapters on solidarity, dignity,
liberty and subsidiarity).
We believe that incorporating (comprehensive) values into a Charter or a constitution is detrimental to politics. Constitutions have higher legal value and bind the legislator.
Decision-making by majority rule in the future is simply made impossible, which is difficult to reconcile with the principle of democracy. Also, legislation contradicting this principle will not pass judicial review. Societal issues thus become legal or technical issues. Judges, not popular sovereignty, will determine what is possible in the new Europe within the framework of the Charter.
For those who are driven by fear for the majority, we recommend Jeremy Waldron’s The Dignity of Legislation. This remarkable work attempts to restore the legitimacy of the legislator in contemporary jurisprudence characterized by distrust for the political dimension of legislative activity. Waldron demonstrates that majority-decision is more than a technical device giving way to rude power-playing in politics. On the contrary, the principle is an efficient and respectful decision-procedure that treats individuals with equal respect and takes seriously the reality of their differences of opinion about justice and the common-good. Majority-decision does not require anyone’s view to be played down or hushed up because of the fancied importance of consensus. “In commanding our support and respect”, Waldron writes, “it does not require any of us to pretend that there is a consensus when there is none, merely because any consensus is better than none, or because the view that strikes some of us as right seems so self-evidently so that we cannot imagine how anyone would hold to the contrary.
Waldron’s theory of disagreement provides a realistic starting-point for good policy-making. Looking back in history as a prerequisite for policy-making is not without risks. There is a strong tendency to use history as scene setting. How we explain the past to ourselves profoundly influences how we feel we should act in the future, but often the past can be explained in different ways depending on the perspective. History is not a stable substance that we can consult without ambiguity.
Jeremy Waldron, The Dignity of Legislation, Cambridge, Cambridge U.P., 1999
T. Heysse & W. Goossens, ‘Power and reason in the democracy’, in T. Heysse & W. Goossens (eds.), Engelen van de wereld. Hedendaagse filosofen over democratie, Kapellen, Pelckmans, 2001
M. Adams, ‘The lawmaker and bio-ethical pluralism’, UVV-Info, 2003, Vol. 20, No. 2, 20-23
Note that the views in this article are those of the author only, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the IES or the VUB. We welcome opinion articles on issues relating to IES research for future newsletters.
|Back to Top|
Sunday 18 - Saturday 31 July 2004
Summer School on the European Decision-making process
In collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, and sponsored by the Action Jean Monnet of the European Commission, the Institute for European Studies is organising two weeks of intensive study on the European decision-making process, geared towards students who have a background in (international) politics and/or (European) law.
Students will be required to study one week at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where the study of theory of the decision-making process will be enriched by glimpses of practice: students will get a theoretical framework linked to study visits to the European Commission, the Parliament, the Council and the European Court of Justice (Luxembourg).The one week of study in Brussels is complemented with a one week study-workshop at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, in collaboration with the University of Vienna.
The registration fee is set at € 490 for students from accession countries, € 780 for EU students, and € 1000 for overseas students or persons who graduated before 2003.
Students register either in Brussels or in Vienna. The registration fee includes one week’s accommodation in Brussels and one week’s accommodation at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna (all half board), air travel between Vienna and Brussels (return ticket), and bus transport between Brussels and Luxembourg.
For more detailed information, see our website, at summerschool/ or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
|Back to Top|
IES goes exotic ...
From 5-8 January the 37th Hawaiian International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS 37) took place. Johan Pas (IES) and Bruno de Vuyst (VECO / Associated Researcher IES) presented their paper on the commercialization of public sector information.
An impressive list of speakers was in attendance during the 37th HICSS at Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. The conference programme consisted of parallel tracks ranging from very technical information retrieval methods, over access to information for disabled persons, to legal and ethical subjects regarding information sciences.
On Tuesday, Bruno and Johan attended the tracks on E-government Services and E-policy. Two lectures, one by Paul Baker on issues for people with disabilities, and another by Robert Minch, Privacy Issues in Location Aware Mobiles, were particularly interesting.
Wednesday was devoted to the mini-track on Ethical,
Legal and Economic Issues in the Digital Economy: Intellectual Property
Rights, Piracy, Trust, Security, and Privacy. The presentation of our
paper, The Use and Re-use of Public Sector Information From an EU Perspective
resulted in an interesting discussion with American colleagues on the
tension between privacy and access to information, and on commercial
activities by public sector agencies. This paper served as a basis for
an article that has been submitted for publication to the Journal of
Information Law and Technology (JILT). On Wednesday evening there was
a distinguished lecture by Dr. Ian Foster. The last day of the conference,
Thursday, our researchers attended the E-government Planning Meeting.
|Back to Top|
IES at European Study Fair
The study fair, which took place from 10:00 - 18:00 on 14 February in the Brussels Hilton Hotel, attracted over 300 potential students from various countries and different study-backgrounds.
|Back to Top|
IRIS Conference Salzburg
With IES support, VUB-researcher Wim Schreurs also attended the symposium, giving a presentation in the track “Datenschutz” (data protection) entitled “Legal Aspects of Ambient Intelligence”. The working language of the symposium is German, yet a (growing) number of presentations in English are accepted.Private law, private international law & judicial cooperation in the EU-US relationship
|Back to Top|
Private law, private international law & judicial cooperation in the EU-US relationship
7-8 May 2004
University of Pittsburgh
Orgnised by the European Union Centre of the University of Pittsburgh and the Institute for European Studies, VUB
European Convention Lectures
IES Book Announcement
Focus on Research
IES Senior Research Fellows appointed
New researchers at the Institute
IES News in Brief
Feature Article: "The democratic dignity of a thin constitution"
IES Summer School
IES goes exotic ...
IES at European Study Fair
IRIS Conference Salzburg
Euro-Atlantic Dialogue Conference
Back to Index
Contributed to this Newsletter:
- Study at IES
- European Projects