Accelerating Cities, Constitutional Brakes? Local Authorities Between Global Challenges and Domestic Law

Barbara Oomen, Moritz Baumgärtel, Elif Durmus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Increasingly, local authorities around the world invoke international law to tackle global challenges autonomously while distancing themselves from national laws and policies, sometimes stimulated by international authorities. This chapter addresses the relevance of national constitutional arrangements for the way in which the resulting conflicts are, or are not, resolved. More specifically, how do domestic courts respond to ‘accelerating cities’ invoking international law as they oppose policies of the national government? Discussing cases from Germany, Turkey, France, the Netherlands and Spain, we offer an initial exploration of how such cases have the potential to challenge the constitutional order in federal and unitary states alike. At the same time, ‘accelerating cities’ are confronted with ‘constitutional brakes’—barriers in national constitutional and administrative rules. Our analysis suggests that national courts may permit harmless symbolic acts, but step down, or even create a ‘backlash’ in the case of more consequential actions. Given the potential in local engagement with international law, and the rise of the phenomenon, it is urgent to set up systematic and detailed investigations and comparisons of the dynamics of local government law in different countries and how they are shaped by an invocation of international law in general, and human rights law in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Yearbook of Constitutional Law 2020
Subtitle of host publicationThe City in Constitutional Law
EditorsErnst Hirsch Ballin, Gerhard van der Schyff, Maarten Stremler, Maartje De Visser
Place of PublicationThe Hague
PublisherT.M.C. Asser Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-6265-431-0
ISBN (Print)978-94-6265-433-4, 978-94-6265-430-3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Publication series

NameEuropean Yearbook of Constitutional Law
PublisherT.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague
ISSN (Print)2405-6111
ISSN (Electronic)2405-612X


  • Cities
  • Local authorities
  • Local government
  • multi-level legal order
  • multi-level constitutionalism
  • undocumented migrants
  • Health and Social Care
  • International law
  • Courts


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