Prof. Dr. Matthias Herdegen

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn – University of Bonn

Matthias HerdegenCurriculum Vitae

Matthias Herdegen is Director of the Institute of Public Law (Institut für Öffentliches Recht) and Director at the Institute of Public International Law (Institut für Völkerrecht) of the University of Bonn. His main areas of research are, inter alia,  in the fields of German and foreign constitutional law, European law, international business law, international law and biotechnology law.

After studying law at the Universities of Heidelberg and Cambridge, Matthias Herdegen gained his doctorate in Heidelberg in 1983. For his habilitation treatise “Gewissensfreiheit und Normativität im positiven Recht“ (Freedom of Conscience and Normativity in Positive Law), he received a special award for constitutional law from the German Federal Ministry of Science. Following his work as a research fellow for foreign and international law at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, he took on a professorship at the University of Bonn and, shortly after, was appointed professor at the University of Konstanz. Since 1995, Matthias Herdegen holds the chair for public law in Bonn. He has been a visiting professor at, inter alia, New York University (Global Law School), the University of Paris I (Sorbonne), the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) and the University of Tel Aviv, as well as adjunct professor at the City University of Hong Kong. Matthias Herdegen is honorary professor at the Pontifical Javeriana University and at the university Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Bogotá. He is Director at the Interdisciplinary Latin America Center of the University of Bonn, executive co-editor of the Grundgesetz-Kommentar Maunz/Dürig (Maunz/Dürig Commentary on German Basic Law) and member of the Human Rights Committee of the International Law Association.

From October 2012 to April 2013, October 2013 to March 2014 and October 2017 to March 2018, Matthias Herdegen was Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”.

Research projects

The International Law of Biotechnology:
Personhood and Human Rights, Risk Management and International Trade

The research project analyses how international law governs the use of modern biotechnology: human rights, health and environmental protection, international trade in biotech products, access to genetic resources and intellectual property rights.  The regulation of biotechnology is one of the legal fields which are particularly sensitive to the influence of ethical arguments as to the status of any form of human life as “person”, the preservation of a “natural” order and uncertainty of long-term effects associated with transgenic plants or animals. The major overarching issues relate to the perception or management of risks and protection of human rights. The range of regulatory approaches reflect different socio-cultural and economic conditions, different risk aversions and different receptivity to scientific standards. Human rights may protect or limit individual choices.  Controversies on the status of early forms of human life and the implications for human dignity appear on national, regional and global level. International trade law affects regulatory choices as to biotech protects, under WTO Law as well as under free trade agreements, as the current debate on mega-regional trade agreements (CETA, TTIP) demonstrates. In applying international treaties on human rights and international trade, international courts and other international bodies often preempt societal discourse or massively restrain democratically legitimated choices. The project thus addresses the interrelation between law and policy choices as well as the socio-cultural underpinnings of legal approaches.

Replacing the constitution (Article 146 of German Basic Law with a comparative view of the Basic Law)

The replacement of the constitution is the central question of any constitutional order. Only few constitutions, however, make it the subject of an explicit rule intended to ensure a legal transition. In Germany, the prerequisites for creating a new constitution in legal continuity with German Basic Law are completely ambiguous following the redrafting of the final article (Article 146 German Basic Law) in the course of reunification. There is particular debate as to whether the majorities for constitutional amendments (Article 79, para. 2 German Basic Law) need to be observed in the process towards creating a new constitution and whether a new constitution has to maintain the indefeasible core contents of the Basic Law (Article 79, para. 3 German Basic Law). In light of the challenges posed by the euro crisis and a possible intensification of European integration, voices from the spheres of politics and constitutional legal theory have been pointing to a new legal basic order that would take the place of the Basic Law. It needs to be clarified - also in comparison with other transformation processes (such as in South Africa) - to what extent the constituent power in Germany is subject to substantive obligations and which provisions exist for this procedure under the Basic Law.

International law in a globalized world – pluralism in an international system of values

The evolution of the international legal order has recently been characterized by considerable dynamics that notably arise from human rights and international business law. The standards of public international law increasingly affect the inner order of individual states - a development that would have been inconceivable just a few decades ago. In order to oppose resulting limitations in domestic (and democratically legitimized) options, the argument of "state sovereignty" is once again raised in the current dialogue: In this process conflicts between universal principles are a central matter of concern. Likewise, the necessity of tying further development of international legal standards of customary and contract law back into sufficiently clear consensus between the states should be taken into consideration. From a substantive law perspective then, it is to be examined, to what extent the dynamics of the devleopment of international law promote elements of good governance (including rationality and transparency) and distributive justice. Finally, the tensions between universal and regional standards on the one hand, and diversity in legal culture on the other, are a key topic of the research project (on this subject see further : Herdegen, Legal Cultures between Self-Assertion and Universal Standards, in: Werner Gephart (ed.), Rechtsanalyse als Kulturforschung, 2012, p.181-192).

Selected Publications

  • Gewissensfreiheit und Normativität des positiven Rechts, Springer, Berlin, 1989.
  • Internationales Wirtschaftsrecht, C. H. Beck, Munich, 9th edition 2011. (translated into Spanish, Chinese and Japanese )
  • Europarecht, C. H. Beck, Munich, 14th edition 2012. ( translated into Polish, Chinese, Ukrainian and Hungarian)
  • Völkerrecht, C. H. Beck, Munich, 11th edition 2012. (translated into Spanish)
  • Internationale Praxis Gentechnikrecht, C. F. Müller, Heidelberg, 1996 ff.
  • Die Befugnisse des UN-Sicherheitsrates, C. F. Müller, Heidelberg, 1998.
  • Co-author, Maunz-Dürig, Kommentar zum Grundgesetz (Commentary on Articles 1, 25, 26, 27, 79 and 88 of German Basic Law).
  • Bankenaufsicht im Europäischen Verbund, De Gruyter, Berlin/New York, 2010.
  • Staat und Rationalität, Schönburger Gespräche zu Recht und Staat, Paderborn, Schoeningh, 2010.
  • Grenzen der Verfassungsgebung, in: Otto Depenheuer/Christoph Grabenwarter (ed.), Verfassungstheorie, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2010, p.349-372.
  • Global Governance und die Rolle des Staates, in: Hermann Weber (ed.), Globale Mächte und Gewalten – Wer steuert die Welt?, Matthias-Grünewald –Verlag, Ostfildern, 2011, p.25-32.
  • Der Beitrag des Internationalen Wirtschaftsrechts zu Good Governance und Rationalität des Staatshandelns; in: Thomas Giegerich (ed.), Internationales Wirtschafts- und Finanzrecht in der Krise, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 2011, p.229-239.
  • “Gewissensfreiheit”, in: Detlef Merten/Hans-Jürgen Papier (ed.), Handbuch der Grundrechte in Deutschland und Europa, Volume IV – Grundrechte in Deutschland, C. F. Müller, Heidelberg, 2011, p.663 – 699.
  • International Economic Law, in: Rüdiger Wolfrum (ed.), The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Volume V, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012, p.777-790.
  • Legal Cultures between Self-Assertion and Universal Standards, in: Werner Gephart (ed.), Rechtsanalyse als Kulturforschung, special publication, Frankfurt am Main, 2012, p.181-191.
  • Principles of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2013.