Globetrotting law professor: “The world should move towards increased internationalisation”

Joakim Nergelius i Visby under Aledalsveckan

Having travelled all over Sweden, Joakim Nergelius does not agree with the notion of the “Gnällbälte”, literally “the Whine belt” which suggests that Region Örebro is the part of Sweden with a dialect that sound as if people are whining. Quite the opposite, he finds the people in Örebro very nice and pleasant.

Joakim Nergelius, professor of law at Örebro University, is used to traveling all around the globe in the name of the law. However, that has not been the case this past year due to the pandemic. During this time, he has come to appreciate the value of being mobile. He also believes that international experience is important for Swedish lawyers.

Since March 2020, Joakim Nergelius has been working from home due to the pandemic. All his lectures and meetings has been conducted online. He raises questions and concerns that many of us could probably relate to. He is no fan of holding his lectures digitally and thinks that a big problem that teachers face today is keeping their students’ attention. Like everyone else he has had to adapt.

“Online lectures are more demanding. You have to write and follow a script more closely since the threshold for students to chime in is higher. These lectures also provide less room for improvising, making them less dynamic,” explains Joakim Nergelius. Another challenge is uncertainty and the inability to plan for the future.

He finds conducting research a little bit easier, but there is still a problem in finding good research material since online sources are not always as reliable.

An international career

Throughout his extensive career in constitutional law, Joakim Nergelius has worked all over the globe, in Luxembourg, Paraguay, South Africa, Israel, and Kenya to name just a few. On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), he worked to reform Ethiopia’s legal system (see fact box).

But for the last seventeen years Joakim Nergelius’ primary role is as a law professor at Örebro University. In this position he has guest lectured all over Europe, so he truly knows the value of being able to move and travel freely.

At the moment, Joakim Nergelius is more focused on writing articles instead of taking part in larger research projects. Most recently he has written a report on the Charter of fundamental rights of the EU[JG2]  which turned 20 years old in December 2020. This is also, appropriately, the time for the publishing of Joakim Nergelius’ report at the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies . His report studies how the charter has performed and its effects.

Teaching internationalisation

Joakim Nergelius was the first professor of law at Örebro University, starting in 2003. Likewise, he participated in organising the jurist programme, introduced two years later. It maintains a high ranking in Sweden with its strong focus on international law.

Why is international collaboration important?  

“I am one of those who believe that the world should move towards increased internationalisation. However, this development of globalisation seems to have been halted over the last few years. Maybe I am influenced by the notion from nineties and two-thousands that we need to increase and expand internationalisation, but I do think it is important for jurists and our students to know a bit about international law and EU law, which gives a different perspective on Swedish law.”

Joakim Nergelius underscores another advantage of being active in the international arena – making invaluable contacts.

Having worked as a guest lecturer and teacher all over Sweden, Europe, and the United States, Joakim Nergelius finds the atmosphere at the relatively young university in Örebro to be quite different, in a positive way.

“Sure, it’s not always friction free, but on the other hand there are no old conflicts tainting the environment, which can often be the case in older, more tradition-laden institutions, such as a certain way of doing things,” Joakim Nergelius explains.

Then there is one university that particularly surprised him: “You’d think that Harvard is the fanciest institution in the world, but all I heard there was gibberish. All the other institutions I’ve visited talks about academic excellence. The only thing they talked about at Harvard was how they promote leadership, which of course is rubbish”.

Law in a pandemic

This year much of the societal focus has been directed at the coronacrisis, and judiciary research is no exception. This meant 2020 was a busy summer for Joakim Nergelius. He has commented on why the Swedish government and public health authority gave recommendations instead of legislating.

In an opinion piece for the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter on the Swedish corona strategy, he argues in short, that Swedish authorities are very independent from each other and the government, due to constitutional laws. This leading to a different strategy than many other countries where the Swedish government, in accordance with tradition, listens more to its expert authorities. Later, he also commented on possible specific corona legislation in an interview on SVT , the Swedish public service television network.

On a personal level, Joakim Nergelius finds himself missing travel – and the country he misses the most is France.

 “I am a bit of a Francophile. Not to a full extent, but if there was one country I would like to visit when all of this is over it would be France,” says Joakim, and ends with “Its culture, the melodic language and the good food is what I long for on a grey November day.”

Text: Hugo Öhman
Photo: Magnus Wahman/Örebro University


Some moree about Joakim Nergelius

Joakim Nergelius has worked for the Research and Documentation Directorate at the Court of Justice of the European Union.  in Luxembourg. 

He was chair of the Swedish Section of the International Commission of Jurists for four years, working on aid projects in Paraguay, South Africa, Israel, and Kenya for promoting the rights of the constitutional states and contributing to judicial development.

He has cowritten a report for a UNDP -sponsored project responsible for the reformation of the Ethiopian judicial system.

He was part of an expert commission, putting together a report on retroactive tax laws for German Ministry of Finance in Berlin.

In Sweden, he really enjoyed the rewarding work as a board member at the Centre of Justice, handling pro-bono cases against the state.