Blog Symposium “Strasbourg Observers turns ten” (1): a cause for celebration!

Dear readers,

This month we’re celebrating Strasbourg Observers’ 10th anniversary. In order to celebrate this event, we’re launching a blog symposium, on which you’ll read more below. But first a bit of history.

In April 2010, Strasbourg Observers was founded by Professor Eva Brems and a team of five PhD researchers from the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University: Alexandra Timmer, Lourdes Peroni, Maris Burbergs, Saïla Ouald Chaib and Stijn Smet. I personally joined the blog a couple of months later, in October 2010, as a recently graduated 22-year old at the beginning of my PhD research. It was an exciting time to join these bright young minds at our Human Rights Centre, which was then turning into a genuine ECHR knowledge centre – think for instance also of the practice the Human Rights Centre has developed in submitting third party interventions to the Strasbourg Court in cases that come within the scope of our academic expertise. All of this would not have been possible had Eva Brems not obtained funding from the European Research Council for the project “Strengthening the European Court of Human Rights: More Accountability through Better Legal Reasoning”. The project’s main objective was to study the European Court of Human Rights’ case law with the aim of proposing innovative legal solutions with a view to strengthening the consistency and persuasiveness of the Court’s reasoning. It was also within this framework that the blog was established, at a time in which the scholarly blogosphere in the field slowly began to develop with the recent establishment of blogs like ECHR Blog, EJIL Talk! and Verfassungsblog.

Over the past ten years, Strasbourg Observers has become one of the key online resources for Strasbourg watchers. Under the changing (co-)editorship of Eva Brems, Stijn Smet, Lourdes Peroni, Saïla Ouald Chaib, myself and Claire Poppelwell-Scevak, the blog has gradually attracted an increasing readership. Starting from 32,407 page views in 2010 and having grown at an average pace of more than 30,000 extra annual views a year, the blog currently peaks at around 300,000 annual views (304,000 in 2018 and 298,171 in 2019). The blog’s impact is reflected in the increasing amount of references made to our blog posts in traditional scholarly literature. Last year we also witnessed a landmark event when  a blog post of ours was, for the first time, mentioned in a separate opinion to an ECtHR Judgment, by Judge Pinto de Albuquerque in Chernega and Others v. Ukraine.

During the last ten years ,we’ve published an average of 62 blog posts  a year. While initially, we did most of the blogging ourselves, over time we’ve increasingly relied on guest bloggers. We would like to give a shout-out and a huge thank you to all of our guest bloggers who have contributed to making Strasbourg Observers such a vibrant place for discussing recent developments in Strasbourg. When taking stock of the history of our blog, an important event to reminisce is the launch of the first edition of our annual poll on the best and worst ECtHR judgment of the preceding year, in January 2013. Since then, our annual poll has become a classic fixture for Strasbourg watchers to look forward to at the beginning of the new year. Our annual poll tradition probably best reflects what has been the Strasbourg Observers spirit from the very outset: in a decade in which the Strasbourg Court has been criticized from various angles for “going too far”, Strasbourg Observers has always been very supportive of the legitimacy of the Court as an institution, with many authors paying respect to the Court’s leadership regarding human rights in Europe, or rather encouraging it to exercise more leadership in this regard.

Since anniversaries are more fun when celebrated together, my co-editor Claire Poppelwell-Scevak has organized a blog symposium. In order to highlight the contribution that Strasbourg Observers has made to the online ECHR scholarship over the last ten years, we want to pay tribute to our five most-read posts since the creation of the blog. We’ve asked the authors thereof to revisit the thoughts they developed in their original blog posts or to reflect on the development of the state of affairs in the area concerned since. We’re very happy that Stijn Smet, Lourdes Peroni, Saïla Ouald Chaib, Dirk Voorhoof and Marie Dembour have agreed to revisit their original blog posts. All of these blog posts concern landmark cases in the Court’s jurisprudence of which we are convinced that they are of continuing interest for you, Strasbourg watchers: Gäfgen v. Germany, Paposhivili v. Belgium, S.A.S. v. France, Delfi AS v .Estonia and Hirsi and Others v. Italy. The first blog post of the blog symposium, by Dirk Voorhoof on Delfi AS, will be published this afternoon. The other posts will be published in the course of the month April, in between our regular flow of blog posts.

Thank you, dear readers, for your continuing interest in our blog. You’re very welcome to continue observing the Strasbourg Court, together with us, for another decade to come.

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