Down By Law? Court s Construction of Antipoverty Standards in Europe.

Name of applicant

Amalie Frese


University of Copenhagen


DKK 1,466,064



Type of grant

Reintegration Fellowships


The research inquiry in the project Down By Law? Court’s Construction of Antipoverty Standards in Europe is how national, regional and international courts and complaint bodies through their adjudication construct and shape the legal frame of anti-poverty norms.Issues relating to social assistance and specifically subsistence minimums represent sensitive dilemmas in constitutional and social law to courts regarding balancing political discretion of states in prioritizing their national budgets versus enforcement of social and economic rights to which states have committed themselves in international treaties and conventions. The overall aim of the project is to contribute with a legal-empirical study of the scope and limitations of courts in Europe in shaping anti-poverty standards.


112.8 million people in the EU lived in households at the risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2017. As part of the Europe 2020 Strategy a key ambition of the EU is to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty. For this endeavor legal antipoverty schemes and specifically subsistence minimum benefits form a principal instrument aiming to mitigate social exclusion and poverty and the right to a minimum income has been incorporated into core national and international legal instruments. Courts are used increasingly to enforce this right, but neither poverty nor ‘subsistence minimum’ are well-defined legal conceptions. This project is important because it investigates how judiciaries defines poverty, antipoverty measures and thus the legal edifice for the underprivileged in Europe.


The research is divided into two work packages. The first work-package is a case law analysis focussing on salient interpretative approaches. The selected courts and complaint bodies are international as well as the Danish, British and Italian high courts and supreme courts representing respectively a liberal, a social democratic and a conservative type of welfare system. The second work-package provides an ‘external’ perspective on the jurisprudential paths of anti-poverty standards as also steered by the courts’ role and authority. This The interest is what contextual factors in regard to the courts and complaint bodies that steer the development of anti-poverty standards towards either more soft law or hard law standards.

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