Un premio della Città di Venezia a Manfred Weiss, socio onorario di LLC

Ca’ Farsetti, 10 April 2024

On a joint initiative of the City of Venice and of the Centre for Legal Studies of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, an award was presented to Manfred Weiss, Professor Emeritus of the Göthe Universität of Frankfurt, in the presence of judge Gianluca Alessio, President of the Labour Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Venice, and of Tommaso Bortoluzzi, President of the Bar Association of Venice.

Paolo Romor, Vice-president of the Venice City Council and Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs.

Venedig ist zu Recht weltweit berühmt für die Ereignisse der Serenissima-Republik und damit für eine lange Geschichte des Handels, der Eroberungen, der Kunst und der Architektur.

Weniger bekannt ist wie Venedig,seit Jahrhunderten, auch eine Rechtskultur und ein Justizsystem entwickelt hat, und zwar so sehr, dass im Jahr 1500 venezianische Richter als Schiedsrichter herangezogenwurden, um Streitigkeiten, die in anderen Nationen entstanden waren, entscheiden.

Zu dieser Zeit gab es in Venedig bereits ein Gerichtsystem nach Zuständigkeiten unterteilt: Zivil-, Straf- und Steuerrecht; und 38 Anwälte, aus den berühmtesten ausgewählt, wurden vom Staat für die Verteidigung der Armen bezahlt.

Bereits vor mehr als 500 Jahren wurde die Zeit festgelegt, die Anwälten zur Verfügung stand in einen Zivilprozess: eine Stunde, markiert durch eine Sanduhr mit vier Zwischenzeichen, die den Ablauf jeder Viertelstunde anzeigten.

Heute möchte Venedig, auch im Licht dieser wichtige Rechtstradition, den wertvollen Beitrag von Professor Manfred Weiss zum Studium und zur Entwicklung des Rechts offiziell anerkennen und ihm insbesondere danken für die wertvolle Tätigkeit die er in unserer Stadt, in Zusammenarbeit mit der Universität Cà Foscari, geleistet hat.

Willkommen in Venedig, Professor Weiss!

Adalberto Perulli, Professor of Labour Law Department of Economy Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

When Prof. Manfred Weiss wrote to me this year confirming that he would be coming to Venice for some seminars as part of the labour law course, I immediately thought of promoting this initiative to celebrate a friend, a master, a great jurist who has given so much to our legal culture, to the students, to the University, to the scholars, to the judges, and to all the people who were lucky enough to speak with him and learn. And so, I am very grateful to Paolo Romor and the Municipality of Venice for organizing this intimate and heartfelt meeting to pay homage to a truly extraordinary person.

Manfred Weiss is a tireless globetrotter, he has taught on all continents, has received honorary degrees and international awards. He certainly doesn’t need any other recognition, but I hope that this small ceremony will convey to him an affectionate feeling of friendship, participation and gratitude for what he has done over the years in our University and in our city.

I met Manfred many years ago. I was lucky enough to participate in his seminars at the master’s degree in Droit social in Paris-Nanterre University whit Prof. Antoine Lyon-Caen, seminars in which I was able to appreciate his extraordinary ability to communicate, to transmit knowledge, and to involve students and colleagues.

Manfred has a rare ability, that of interpreting law as a social fact and as an instrument for social progress. Like all great thinkers, he never has a dogmatic and rigid position, but he cultivates doubt, and his research method is always open, never closed in canonical positions.

For him, law is not simply regulation, norm, but a project of social emancipation and an instrument for the recognition of the fundamental rights of the person. His contribution to labour law is extraordinarily important. European labour law and international labour law are subjects that have progressed thanks to his study, his incessant teaching work, and his pedagogical attitude.

Thank you, Manfred, I hope you will come again to Venice, which will now be an even more welcoming and friendly city for you.

Francesco Perrone, judge of the Court of Padua.

Distinguished Professor Weiss, Distinguished Mayor of the City of Venice, Distinguished Mister President of the Court of Appeals of Venice, Distinguished Mister President of the Bar of Venice, Distinguished Director of the Legal Office of the City of Venive, representatives of the Academy of Venice, it is an honour and a pleasure for me to take part in this ceremony to celebrate Professor Manfred Weiss, an eminent jurist and intellectual. Today I have the honour to say a few words on the impact of his teaching as a legal scholar on the development of both national and European jurisprudence.

I feel obliged to start from a human characteristic that makes Professor Weiss a Master of great stature. Professor Weiss is a person of rare sensitivity, sensibility, and intelligence. We all can immediately appreciate his humanity not only when we listen to his lessons and conferences, but also when we have the chance to chat with him during the pause of a seminar or lunch break. Professor Weiss is a Master who warns us of the dangers of arrogance and pride, which are enemies of the development of knowledge and adversaries of a responsible use of science.

We all know Professor Weiss as an eminent jurist, who has concretely influenced the development of the jurisprudential thought of many Italian and European judges. First, I would like to mention Professor Weiss’ role as an axiological orientation for the judicial authorities throughout Europe. Judges are aware that the exercise of the judicial function is neither a neutral science, nor a geometry. Jurisdiction is strongly animated and vivified by the axiological background taken by the judge as a reference in the interpretation of law, as well as in the balancing of private and collective interests within the adjudication process.

Our thoughts immediately turn to the numerous court cases where the task to interpret legal provisions requires the judge to take a stance, for example, on the axiological value of the job stability. The jurisprudence of the Italian Constitutional Court has been deeply engaged with this issue in recent years. Since 2018, constitutional case-law has repeatedly adjudicated on the labour reform enacted by the so-called Job Act, which has starkly shifted the legislative policies concerning the job security from the traditional property rule approach to a liability rule model. In this regard, Professor Weiss has deeply explored several themes, which have profoundly shaped the legal thinking of judges. Money is a key motivation to work, but it is only one element, among many, that makes a work “valuable”. Valuable work takes many more dimensions, which go much beyond a general need to respect the human dignity and the claim to enrich the personal identity.

a) A very contemporary theme is the appropriation of technology by the worker. Long-life training plays a central role, especially in a period of work transformation, due to digitalisation and decarbonisation of the production cycle: work is valuable where the worker benefits of a training enabling to cope with all the challenges of the work. Professionalisation has a value not only in respect of the existential dimension of the individual, but also for the society. Judges have a day-to-day understanding of how their own precognition about the individual and the social value of professionalisation may affect the result of the adjudication process. Such an impact may occur not only, more intuitively, in cases of demotion and mobbing, but also, for example, in cases of redundancies following a production crisis, which requires to address the problem of the selection of the professional profiles to be eliminated from the production context, or rather to be saved, possibly through a re-training of the worker or a reconversion of his/her professional skills.

b) A second important theme cannot be neglected: the job security as a precondition for a medium and long-term life plan. The teaching of Professor Weiss puts judges alert to the possible interpretative influences that may arise from what he calls “the new philosophy”, that predicts a swich of cultural approach, from a philosophy of “job security” to a philosophy of “employment security”. This change of perspective implies an anthropological transition, from an idea of human being conceived as the holder of an irreplaceable position in the working context and in the society, to a doctrine that preaches the primacy of the labour market and the imperative of the “employability” of the individual. The weakening of the security bond, which tethers the worker to his/her own job role, increases conflicts between workers, tightens the competition games on the workplace, and produces a detrimental impact on the solidarity ties among workers. On the contrary, long-term, and stable work relationship between workers and the company providesincentives to companies to invest in training of their employees, enterprises being able to rely on the return on investments for training. Likewise, job security provides incentives to workers to share their knowledge and skills with colleagues, notably with younger workers. Colleagues can be perceived not as competitors, each one holding tight on his/her own job or committed in conjecturing how to appropriate the job of the other, perhaps being the only way to progress in career. “Labour is not a commodity” is the famous statement in the ILO’s Philadelphia declaration, that Professor Weiss exhorts us to keep always in mind.

c) A decent work-life balance is the “favourite theme” of Professor Weiss. The risk of self-exploitation is inherent in working flexibility practices, as the pandemic has shown us. Considering this, Professor Weiss has repeatedly asserted the central importance of the “right to stop”, i.e.  the possibility of a full detachment, both physical and mental, from work.

d) In a period where deregulation practices predominate, Professor Weiss’ teaching invites judges to play their own role in the development of minimum social standards. The judge is a craftsman, called upon to shape with his/her own hands the principle of equal treatment, not simply as an anti-dumping measure aimed at repressing discriminatory practices that affect the smooth functioning of the market, but as a tool for promoting human dignity and social justice. I find very suggestive the debate on international labour standards, developed among eminent jurists, in which Professor Weiss took part, along with Brian Langille and Anne Trebilcock. In a 2011 essay (International Labour Standards: A Complex Public-Private-Policy-Mix, in Studi in Onore di Tiziano Treu, Jovene, 2011), Professor Weiss supported the idea for an approach “bottom-up”, rather than “top-down”, in the definition of international legal standards: “less detailed rules, more principles”. In that essay, Professor Weiss, referring to the complex problems brought up by the setting out of ILO standards, on the one hand criticised the role of the experts, where such a role is overabundant, in as much as pretending to impose “from above” the standards suggested by their particular knowledge and sensitivity. On the other hand, Professor Weiss reminded us of the challenges raised by the changing world: the end of multilateralism, the exhaustion of a common and shared framework of values, the end of the idea of universalism, the following disappearance of universally recognised terms of reference, and, I would like to add, the end of a universal idea human reason. In that debate, Professor Weiss had mainly in mind the role played by national governments, rather than the role of judges. However, such debate may provide guidance also for the members of the judiciary. The judge is the authority that, more than any other, is at the very bottom of the process of labour minimum-standardisation.

e) Professor Weiss is Master also in the field of comparative law. The integration process of the Charters on fundamental rights within the multi-level system of sources of law is changing the essence of the institutional identity of the judge, as historically conceived by the traditional nation-state model. This evolution concurs to carve out a growing trend that puts the judge as a pivot player of a judicial path to the European integration process. Judicial implementation of fundamental rights provided by both the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights into national legal orders is nowadays a significant test-bench. This process particularly brings into question two aspects of the traditional view on the role of the judicial function in the nation-state.

The first sensitive point regards the long-established way to conceive the illuminist idea of separation of powers. An essential pillar of such a doctrine is the principle of submission of the judge to statutory law, in which the States mostly tied to the civil law legal tradition are mainly rooted.  Integration into the EU legal order makes national judges more and more aware of the privileged relationship that the direct dialogue with the EU law level permits to have with the political substratum, which typically underlies the legislation of the Union. Such an osmosis allows the national judge to have access to an axiological dimension that, according to the traditional doctrine of the nation-state, should be strictly reserved to the competence of legislative and executive branches of the State. At the same time, the para-legislative efficacy stemming from the precedents set by the European Court of Justice, and the result-oriented effect imposed by the ECHR and the European Court on Human Rights case-law, call into question the rigorous illuminist way to conceive the principle of submission of the judge to the law, which radically excludes judicial interpretation from sources of law, able as such to bind the judge.

Secondly, the multilevel integration process calls into question the long-established notion of sovereignty in the modern State, stemming from the Westphalian order (cuius regio eius et religio), the cornerstone of which is the legitimate claim of the nation-state to exert the sovereignty in an exclusive manner over its own territory (ius excludendi omnes alios). The current political crisis in the process of European integration makes it urgently necessary to find a fertile compromise between such a doctrine, never waned, and the principles of direct effect of EU law and the result-orientation stemming from the ECHR system. The classic idea of the judiciary as an authority by nature “national” or “domestic” is no longer able to describe the practical way in which the sovereignty-integrated European legal order is evolving.

In such a context, the teaching of a“legal scholar without borders” (Manfred Weiss Legal Scholar without Borders Selected Writings and Some Reflections on the Future of Labour Law, M. Del Conte and M. Tiraboschi Ed., Adapt University Press, 2022) on the role of comparative law takes on a particular value. First, the functional approach lesson on the purpose of comparative law. On the one hand, comparative law is to be conceived as a tool useful for the evolution of other national systems. This guideline was designed by Professor Weiss having mainly in mind the role of policy makers. However, it implicitly contains an invitation also for judges not to fear the use both of legal and logical arguments drown from the case-law of different judicial models, particularly, but not only, those belonging to the common European family. On the other hand, comparative law proposesdifferent models to better understand our system: the comparison with different legal models is an unmatchable tool to grasp the authentic meaning of our own domestic legal system.

f) I find one last lesson particularly important for judges. Professor Weiss warns us against a superficial and misleading use of comparative law that policy makers may perform. Comparison is often invoked to justify ex post a certain political agenda of labour reform, rather than to rationalise reform projects according to clear theoretical points of references. Professor Weiss’ teaching reminds judges to be careful about the potential risks of bemusement, and cautious in considering themselves immune, as such, to the winds of propaganda, which may blow from politics, from the world of media, and even from certain academia when scholars leave the rigorous field of science.

Manfred Weiss, Professor Emeritus of the Göthe Universität of Frankfurt.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends,

I am overwhelmed by this impressive event in my honour, happy and embarrassed the same time. It has been a wonderful surprise. I would like to thank all of you who have attended the ceremony and given me the honour of your presence. I am especially grateful to you Paolo Romor for having involved inorganizing this event and to you, my dear friend Adalberto Perulli, for having taken the initiative. You both deserve also special thanks for your touching words. And, of course, I am particularly grateful to you, Francesco Perrone, for your splendid, knowledgeable but highly exaggerated laudatio.  Although you tremendously overestimate my modest contribution, I take every word as true and good. This is the privilege of my old age.

It always has been a special pleasure for me to teach and lecture at Ca’ Foscari in this beautiful city. I consider it a great privilege to be here. Venice for me is not only a location, but somehow it has also become somehow my second home. I adore the unique spirit of this incomparable city. And I am also fortunate to have here wonderful friends, some of them are here today in this ceremony. I have been in love with Venice already before today, but now thanks to this event my ties are even closer.

Whether and for how long I will be able to follow invitations to Venice in the future is difficult to predict at my age. But it is certain that it will always be a great privilege for me. Many thanks again.

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