Monday 15 May 2023

Event: 'The Concept of Europe: Progress, Colonial Continuities, and the ECHR'

On 16 May from 13:00-14:00, the Centre for European Law and Internationalisation of the University of Leicester is organizing an online event entitled ''The concept of Europe: Progress, colonial continuities, and the European Convention on Human Rights''. During the event, Dr Jens T Theilen (Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg) will give a presentation on the meaning of the references to 'Europe' in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Here is a description of the event:

'Debates on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are awash with references to Europe, from early invocations of the ‘concept of Europe’ by Pierre-Henri Teitgen, via the idea of the ECHR as a constitutional instrument of the ‘European’ public order, to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as the ‘conscience of Europe’. Yet these references to Europe have gone largely unanalysed in academic commentary. In this presentation, I will argue that they build on the time-space of European colonialism, positing Europe as a progressive space that is hierarchically superior to non-European territories, ostensibly lagging behind Europe in civilizational terms.

I trace the ‘concept of Europe’ from early debates on the need for a specifically European human rights instrument to three areas that remain relevant to the present day: questions of territorial applicability, especially but not exclusively the so-called ‘colonial clause’ (Art. 56 ECHR); doctrinal figures developed by the ECtHR, particularly the ‘European consensus’ argument associated with the margin of appreciation; and, finally, academic and policy debates on the position of the ECHR in relation to regions outside of Europe, and of the ECtHR in relation to other human rights bodies. My claim will be that the sense of European ownership of human rights and the localization of progress as European shines through in each of these areas, and hence that the time-space of colonialism is constitutive of European identity as expressed within human rights law. In closing, I will consider the broader implications of this claim for the ECHR and what it might mean to move towards a different ‘concept of Europe’.'