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German Research Institute for Public Administration

The development of a pan-European general principle of good administration by the Council of Europe and its impact on the administrative law of its member states

This research project focuses on the development of a pan-European principle of good administration by the Council of Europe (CoE) and its impact on the domestic legal systems.

The CoE has been working since the 1970s on questions related to public administration and formulated a pan-European legal principle of good administration. This principle, follows from, in particular, Article 15 of the Statute of the CoE, which enshrines the possibility for the Council to formulate recommendations and additional documents. The principle has contributed to a partial harmonization of administrative law in the CoE's 47 members. One of the most important recommendations in this regard is Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)7 on Good Administration. Since the Beyerler case (ECtHR, Case Beyerler v. Italy, application no. 33202/96, judgment of 5 January 2000), the European Court of Human Rights has elaborated more and more requirements that the national administrations have to respect when applying a law that may - in principle - constitute an infringement on rights protected by the European Convention of Human Rights. Herein, the European Court of Human Rights has strong recourse, in its interpretation of the European Convention of Human Rights, also to other agreements and recommendations of the CoE, which have been declared to be general interpreting methods for the Convention as a living instrument (cf. ECtHR, Grand Chamber, Demir and Baykara v. Turkey, application no. 34503/97, judgment of 11 December 2008). Insofar the European Court as well the organs of the Council of Europe have recognized the different legal acts of the Council of Europe to be a uniform corpus of law, which concretize the values of the Council of Europe (i.e. democracy, rule of law, human rights protection), including in the domain of administrative action.

The work done by the CoE on the administrative plane, as well as its impact on domestic legal systems, remains relatively understudied. This project aims to analyze and to systematize the substance and the extent of pan-European standards of good administration as developed by the CoE. In addition, the (possible) meaning and (potential) effects of the harmonization of the European administrative law on the national legal systems will be explored in cooperation with legal experts from 27 selected member states of the Council of Europe. This cooperation is to yield a common reference for comparing national administrative systems (tertium comparationis). Furthermore, it is to provide a catalogue of examples of good and bad administration, drawing from the member states of the CoE. It is the project team's hope that this frame of reference can be used for the creation of more democratic and rule-of-law-conforming administrations in "transition countries". Moreover, such a common model of reference could be employed by the "old" member states in order to reform their outdated administrative laws or to prevent the deterioration of standards of good administration.

Senior Fellow

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Stelkens



Agne Andrijauskaite, M.A., LL.M.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)