EJIL at 30; The Birth of EJIL

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Some things never seem to change. It was, I believe, with a keen eye on emerging talent, that we published Martti Koskeniemmi as the lead article in Volume I, Issue 1 of EJIL. We thought it was appropriate when we celebrated our 20th anniversary to invite him to revisit what had by then become a classic. And for our 30th anniversary we had known for some time that we would invite Koskenniemi to be the author of our annual Foreword article. Have we lost our keen eye for emerging talent? I do not think so (see our Vital Statistics below). Koskeniemmi is like a good wine or spirit that loses nothing of its bite and yet offers a particular savour and mellowness as it ages.

We debated how to mark EJIL’s 30th anniversary: after all, we published a special issue at 20 and another celebration at 25. I looked at my Editorial for our EJIL at 20 issue. In some ways, it is a bit like all living creatures. There is something in their defining characteristics that remains constant. There is not much that I would add to that Editorial.

Still, there has been some innovation in the last 10 years: Think EJIL: Talk! (celebrating its 10th Anniversary) EJIL: Live!, The Foreword, Roaming Charges and the Last Page, the Debates, and more.

For the sake of nostalgia we reproduce here the earliest letter we can find from the birth of EJIL. Please be sitting when you take a look and kindly suppress the guffaws. (Yes, what happened to the English/French idea…?) It was all in earnest and good faith. But has your life turned out to be as your parents thought and maybe hoped when you were born?

Guffaws aside, I do want to take this opportunity to offer profound thanks to the European University Institute, and its Academy of European Law, without whose support EJIL would not have come into being, a support which has continued in various ways for three decades. It has been exemplary in never seeking to impose any shackles, ideological, organizational or otherwise, on the editorial freedom that EJIL has enjoyed.

Thanks also go to the NYU School of Law, which understands itself as a ‘Global Law School’ (the Americans do have a certain panache for the Big Name) and has a deep and profound commitment to international law scholarship. In this relationship it has never been ‘NYU first’, let alone ‘America first’ – quite the contrary: International Legal Scholarship first! And with this spirit both my predecessor as Editor-in-Chief, Philip Alston, and I have been privileged to exercise our functions from this institution.

Finally, we have had a rewarding (for them, too, I hope) relationship with our publisher, Oxford University Press. Sometimes they have had to grin or grimace and bear it, but they have been supportive of all our initiatives and idiosyncrasies and we are grateful for that. It is a marriage the vows of which we renew every five years (maybe a good idea for all marriages), but somehow I believe that there will be gold and diamond and whatever anniversaries in years to come.  

But with this, the reminiscing and navel gazing come to an end. And gladly (for all…) it will not be me who decides how to celebrate such anniversaries in the future.

Instead, the birth of EJIL coincided with the much more monumental event – the fall of the Berlin Wall. Throughout this anniversary year we will be dedicating several features to mark this cataclysm in international history and international legal history. Watch this space!

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