Contact Me | Impressum

Prof. Dr. Niels Petersen
Lehrstuhl für öffentliches Recht, Völker- und
Europarecht sowie empirische Rechtsforschung
Universitätsstr. 14-16
48143 Münster

Tel.: +49-251-83-22021

E-mail: niels.petersen [at]

Webpage of the professorship | Webseite des Lehrstuhls


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Correcting Inequality through Law

Equality is one of the main political concerns of our time. Rising economic inequality is often cited as a major reason for the recent rise of political populism. But economic inequality is not the only problem. Inequalities based on gender, race or nationality are also major issues in the contemporary discussion. While most commentators discuss political solutions, the proposed research project analyses the contributions that courts can make to correct inequalities. Norms protecting equality form part of all major national and international human rights instruments. However, the meaning of equality is fundamentally contested. There is no agreement on what equality exactly means or entails. The question, therefore, is not whether legal equality guarantees can tolerate inequality, but to what extent they can do. Because of these conceptual difficulties, the application of equality and non-discrimination clauses is not a straightforward exercise, in which courts simply apply legal norms to a given set of facts. Instead, courts need to develop doctrinal instruments to give meaning to the concept of equality. The proposed research project analyses how apex courts conceptualize equality in constitutional and international human rights law. It will be based on a comparative study of the equality jurisprudence of 16 jurisdictions and has three aims. Firstly, it intends to create a comparative map of equality jurisprudence, i.e. to describe and categorize the constitutional jurisprudence on equality: Which doctrinal choices do courts make and how do these choices inform the conception of equality? Secondly, it seeks to explain the doctrinal choices of the analyzed courts: Which factors influence courts to arrive at particular conceptions of equality? Thirdly, it has a normative goal and examines whether courts are better suited to correct certain kinds of inequalities than other kinds of inequalities.

Balkan Summer University

The Itinerant Balkan Summer University is a project that brings together students, PhD candidates and professors from different Balkan countries as well as from France and Germany for an academic exchange. Every year, the summer university takes place at different universities in the Balkan region. It consists of a conference module for PhD candidates and senior academics and different workshops for students. The main goal of the summer university is to create and strengthen networks between a Balkan universities regardless of nationality, ethnicity and religious background.

2014 – The Balkans on the Way to Europe
3-14 September in Skopje, Prishtina & Tirana

2015 – Accession to the European Union and Identity of the Balkans
9-16 September in Skopje & Prishtina | 28 October - 3 November in Tirana & Podgorica

2016 – Refugees, Migration and Rule of Law in Balkan Countries
11-15 September in Skopje | 3-6 November in Sofia

2018 – Identity in the European Union and the Balkans
17-26 September 2018 in Prishtina, Skopje & Belgrade