The concept of sovereignty lies at the heart of the discipline of international law. It constitutes one of the integral elements of the State and as such it serves as a foundation pillar for the current system of international organization. Inherent in the concept of sovereignty is the idea of borders: sovereignty is manifested as internal sovereignty in the positive sense of self-determination and self-governance; and as external sovereignty in the negative sense of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other States. However, this absolute boundary, both in physical and in intellectual terms, is increasingly eroded in practice.

The present project will identify specific areas where sovereignty and the borders that define it are challenged and will seek to establish whether the traditional rules would suffice to address present and future realities. We assume that such challenges coalesce into two major categories:

i. Beyond territory, where the State seeks to move further from its physical borders sovereign functions, such as immigration control, and powers, such as jurisdiction over elements in the high seas, traditionally exercised within its territorial limits; and

ii. Beyond sovereignty, where the challenges presented go beyond the very essence of the concept of sovereignty as we know it, effectively by-passing the State and functioning on both a sub-statal and an intra-statal level, as in the case of addressing climate change or cyberspace governance.

Each and every of these four topics remain at the forefront of international law today. The subject matter of the proposed research is the international cutting-edge in the field and extremely relevant to our daily concerns. Indeed, it would be rare to find another research area where scientific questions of such import find pride of place in the collective consciousness or where the wider society could follow state-of-the-art theoretical concerns at the media front page.

Such questions and concerns loom also large in the Greek society; suffice it to underscore the still on-going refugee crisis and the challenges ahead for Greece as both a coastal State and a maritime State (in fact the most influential commercial maritime State) in the new management scheme for marine areas beyond national jurisdiction currently under negotiation as well as the impacts of climate change to Greek economy, especially tourism.

Although each one of these topics may well support individual research, they still constitute facets of the same intellectual problem and pose in effect the same systemic and doctrinal questions. Therefore, we will endeavour to ascertain whether the challenges they pose to the system of international law, as it stands today, may be addressed within the parameters of the present-day construction or whether they necessitate further adjustment or even the creation of a new regulatory framework.

The research team is comprised of experts in each field, thus allowing the research to proceed at a fast pace beyond the first layer to in-depth questions and identify the pivotal points of concern. The existing combined expertise and experience of the team would allow us to concentrate on the most specific and relevant issues and thus achieve measurable results within the duration of the project, in the form of scientific papers of the highest level of excellence to be published in reputable law journals and a variety of dissemination exercises. The latter include both closed workshops and a final international conference but also a number of seminars and meetings addressed to the wider epistemic community accessible both corpore at the premises of Athens PIL and via electronic means, including as webinars and even Massive Open Online Courses – MOOCs.

The research project was supported by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (H.F.R.I.) under the “1st Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects to support Faculty Members & Researchers and the Procurement of High-Cost research equipment grant” (Project Number: HFRI-FM17-1415).