About the project
The main role of a constitution is basically considered to be twofold: it sets up an institutional design that restricts the use of public power on the one hand and guarantees fundamental rights for individuals on the other.
Our project focuses on a third possible role: identity building.
Now, the identity of a political community is mostly based on language, ethnicity, religion or the combination of them. We suggest that the constitution could also become the primary source of identity for a society. For that, three requirements are necessary.
First, citizens must consider the constitution to be an authentic expression of their will.
Second, the constitution must ensure compatibility with morality and international law. These two aspects are crucial to the legitimacy of a constitution.
Third, there must be a constant, but not too harsh public debate among different institutions of the state about the interpretation of constitutional norms. In order to find out more about how these requirements function and about the barriers of identity building through constitutionalism, we will conduct comparative legal analysis and fieldwork in ten selected states from Europe (primarily, but not exclusively Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans) and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Our research is planned to proceed in two steps which are dedicated to the institutional and the citizen level respectively. We believe this separation is necessary for two reasons. First, institutional analysis and public opinion study require different methodological approaches. Second, we plan to rely on the results of our public opinion study to determine the scope and focus of the institutional analysis. Our exploration of public opinion of constitutional issues will give as the cues regarding the institutional mechanisms that are relevant.