Jens Woelk

Rector's delegate for Initiatives on Linguistic Minorities

University of Trento

Full professor

Faculty of Law

Via Verdi, 53 - 38122 Trento
tel. 0461 283877
jens.woelk[at]unitn [dot] it

1998                          PhD in Comparative Public Law, University of Regensburg (Germany)

1994                          Bar exam, Regensburg (Germany)

1991                          Law Degree, University of Regensburg (Germany)

Academic career and teaching activities

Current Position

Since 1.2.2020       Professor in Comparative Constitutional Law (Professore ordinario)

Academic Career

2017 - 2019             Vice-Director of the Institute of Comparative Federal Studies, Eurac Research Bolzano/Bozen

2010 - 2020            Associate Professor in Comparative Constitutional Law (Professore associato)   
at the Faculty of Law and at the School of International Studies, University of Trento (Italy)

2012 – 2018           Coordinator PhD Programme in International Studies 
at the School of International Studies, University of Trento

2000 – 2017           Senior Research Advisor at the Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism 
Eurac Research - European Academy, Bolzano/Bozen (Italy)

2000 - 2010            Lecturer and Researcher, career track (Ricercatore confermato), University of Trento

2000 - 2007            Coordinator (Law), “Joint Master for Comparative Local Development”; joint degree of the Universities Trento, Regensburg, Budapest (Corvinus) und Lubljana - Erasmus Mundus Programme

1994 - 2000            Senior Researcher at the European Academy in Bolzano (Eurac), Research Area „Minorities and Autonomies“ (1996-2000 Coordinator of this Research Area)

1998                          PhD in Comparative Public Law, University of Regensburg (Germany)

1994                          Bar exam, Regensburg (Germany)

1991                          Law Degree, University of Regensburg (Germany)


Teaching  (Regular Courses taught at Trento University – Graduate and PhD level):  

European Union Law; Comparative Constitutional Law of Groups and Minorities; Introduction into the Law of the German-speaking countries; Comparative Constitutional Law; Comparative Administrative Law

Teaching and Research Abroad

Vermont Law School (USA, 2008-2012); University of Regensburg (Germany, 2008-2010, 2012-2014); University of Innsbruck (Austria, 2010-11); Visiting professor Global Law Program, University of Haifa (Israel, 12/2011); University of Graz (Austria, 2012, 2014); University of Belgrade (Serbia, 2014-2018), Visiting professor Hebrew University Jerusalem (Israel, 11/2014 and 01/2017).


Research interests

Comparative federalism and regionalism; governance and constitutional law of the European Union; minority rights; legal management of diversity; constitutional transformation in South-Eastern Europe 

Main Research Interests

Based on legal comparison, individual research carried out over the last years has been dedicated to the structural and characteristic elements of the process leading to the progressive constitutionalisation of the European space (European Union, Council of Europe and OSCE). 

Various phenomena and dimensions of pluralism have been at the centre of research interest: normative and territorial pluralism (federalism and regionalism), cultural pluralism (protection and promotion of minorities, legal management of diversity) and institutional pluralism. The constitutional transformation in South Eastern Europe – after the dissolution of Yugoslavia and in the perspective of future membership in the European Union – has been analysed an important test-case for the future of the European integration process.

1. Normative and territorial pluralism (federalism and regionalism)

Various studies have dealt with recent evolutions of federalism and regionalism in selected European legal systems. Particular attention has been paid to the comparison between German federalism and Italian regionalism as well as to new forms of territorial and cross-border cooperation, such as the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation - EGTC.

Studies on the constitutionalization of the European integration process focus on the reciprocal influence and conditioning between the EU legal system and those of the Member States and Candidate States, respectively.

2. Cultural pluralism (minority-protection and diversity management)

The main focus of this research strand has been dedicated to the evolution of constitutional transition in South Eastern Europe and to the regional autonomy system of Trentino-South Tyrol, considered a model case in comparative terms. 

Apart from studying single institutional issues and cases, useful also for the second edition of the Italian textbook on comparative constitutional law of groups and minorities (2011), minority rights and issues of Power Sharing have been at the centre of the studies. The Italian asymmetrical system of minority-protection and the advanced solutions adopted in the autonomous Province of Trento have also been studied in depth.

3. Constitutional transition in South Eastern Europe (SEE)

After the break-up of Yugoslavia, the essential elements of constitutionalism have become the main reference and standards in their democratisation and constitutional transition for the States in SEE. They have become part of the EU conditionality in the pre-accession process towards EU membership, even in normative terms. However, their concrete definition as well as the implementation of the abstract Copenhagen criteria has created manifold difficulties. Thus, often the transition process is guided by external actors and/or intervention.

Individual research has been based upon various study visits and the publication of a monographic volume on constitutional transition of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In recent years, the focus of research has shifted to the pre-accession process of SEE countries, its constitutional impact and the reciprocal relations with the EU (such as the debate on “EU Member State-Building”).

One effect of these research strands is a greater sensibility in teaching, in particular in programmes targeted at participation of students from the Western Balkans (Master for Comparative Local Development, University of Trento; Master in South Eastern European Law, University of Graz; Summer Schools at Ohrid Lake and Hvar island, University of Belgrade, Graz and Zagreb).

Collective research: Apart from participation in the projects of the Institue for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism, Woelk has been part of the Trento research unit in three PRIN projects (Research Project of National Interest, grant by Italian Research Ministry; in both, Trento, has been national coordinator for seven Italian universities): PRIN 2005 Pluralism in constitutional transition in the Balkans, PRIN 2007 MaGIE – Judges, Judiciary and Institutional Balances, and the 2011 PRIN Jurisdiction and Pluralisms (

Research work
  • 2013-2016 Prin "Jurisdictions and Pluralisms" (, member of research unit Trento
  • 04-05.2012 Selected Member State Expert, “Peer Review of the Judiciary" in Macedonia, EU Commission, DG Enlargement
  • 12.2011 Independent Expert, Monitoring Visit Macedonia - European Charter of Local Self-Government (CLRAE – Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe)
  • da 2011 Member (Germany) of the Group of Independent Experts, CLRAE – Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe
  • 05-06.2010 Selected Member State Expert, “Assessment of the Judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, EU Commission TAIEX, DG Enlargement
  • 03.-07 2004 Expert European Unione project (study for the CARDS program): "Re-enforcement of the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans"; field missions to Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro
  • 01.2002 and 01.2003 Expert EU project in Bosnia-Herzegovina: "Support for the common institutions of the State of BiH - Civil Service Law"; two missions to Sarajevo
  • 2002 Project on questions of regionalization and decentralisation in Yugoslavia
  • since 11.2000 External cooperation with Eurac Research, Bolzano
Memberships in societies and scientific committees
  • Vice-President of the Euroregional Association of Comparative Public Law and European Law - 'Associazione euroregionale per il diritto pubblico comparato ed europeo (
  • Member of the Association Diritto Pubblico Comparato ed Europeo
  • Member of the Association "Devolution Club"
  • Member of the Scientific Committee of “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso” (Trento);
    since 2018: Member of the Scientific Committee of Centro di Cooperazione Internazionale (Trento)

Reviews: Member of the editorial board / permanent cooperation:

  • Diritto Pubblico Comparato ed Europeo (DPCE), il Mulino, Bologna 
    (until 2015: Giappichelli, Torino), member of editorial board, Trento (
  • Quaderni Costituzionali , il Mulino, Bologna 
    (from 2000 until today, correspondent for "cronache costituzionali dall'estero - Germania e Austria")
  • Member of Editorial Board - Review "Contemporary Southeastern Europe" (Editor-in-Chief: Florian Bieber), dal 2014 a oggi
  • National Observatory on Language Rights / Observatoire national en matière de droits linguistiques (Canada), corresponding member, since 2016 
  • Member of the Academic Advisory / Editorial Board of the Ibidem/Columbia University Press series on “Balkan Politics and Society” since 2018 
  • Member of Scientific board and referee of the online review "European Diversity and Autonomy Papers" (, since 2002 

Referee di rivista

  • Review "Publius: The Journal of Federalism" (Oxford Journals, Oxford University Press) since 2014
  • Review "International Journal on Minority and Group Rights" (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Boston-Leiden, ISSN 1385-4879), since 2014 
  • Review of Central and East European Law RCEEL, Martinus Nijhoff Publisher, Boston – Leiden, since 2010
  • Diritto Pubblico Comparato ed Europeo (DPCE), il Mulino, Bologna (ex: Giappichelli, Torino)
  • Review "Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism" (, since 2010 
  • Rivista "Le Regioni" (il Mulino), since 2010 


Other work

Vice-President of the Consulta trentina per la riforma dello statuto dell'autonomia (consultative body for the reform of the autonomy statute), from 09/2016 - 04/2018

Expert Activities and Specific South Eastern European Experience (selection)

Bosnia and HerzegovinaFebruary 2000Participation in OSCE-Conference on Constitution and the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces in BiH
SerbiaMarch 2001Study visit to Serbia (Belgrade, University of Novi Sad and Open University of Subotica)
Bosnia and HerzegovinaFebruary 2002Short-Term Expert, EU-GTZ project “Support of the Common Institutions of the State of Bosnia-Herzegovina”
Bosnia and HerzegovinaJanuary 2003Short-Term Expert, EU-GTZ project “Support of the Common Institutions of the State of Bosnia-Herzegovina”
Western BalkansFebruary to July 2004Expert, fact finding missions and study for EU Commission: “Re-enforcement of the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans. Division of competencies and interrelations between courts, prosecutors, the police, the executive and legislative powers in the Western Balkans countries (CARDS strategic studies 2003)”
Italy (Trento)2006 – 2008Coordination and researchin a two-years research project on “Constitutional Transformations in the Western Balkans“, co-financed by the Italian Ministry for University and Research. The project analysed the process of constitutional transformation and the legal recognition and treatment of diversity in the new Constitutions of SEE.        
The University of Trento was national coordinator (prof. Roberto Toniatti) of five research units (Universities of Bari, Pescara, Teramo, Trento, Trieste) and, as research unit, focusing on the interaction of two crucial aspects in transition: territorial organisation (in particular differentiated treatment and special status of some territories) and cultural pluralism (in part. Minority-protection and multiculturalism).
Bosnia and HerzegovinaJune / Sept-ember 2008Research Scholarship”Erasmus Mundus“: research on constitutional transition in BiH (2 months stay in Sarajevo)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo) / Austria (Vienna)

December 2009

April 2010

Federalism in Bosnia-Herzegovina: United in Diversity? Which kind of federalism for Bosnia and Herzegovina?Presentationsat the International Conferences “Democracy in a Multi-Ethnic Society: Experiences and Challenges in BiH. Implications of the Judgement of the ECHR in the Case of Sejdić and Finci vs. BiH and Future Perspectives for Constitutional Reform in BiH”, University of Sarajevo and University of Vienna
Bosnia and HerzegovinaMay – July 2010Selected Member State Expert, “Assessment of the Judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, EU Commission TAIEX, DG Enlargement (Reference code: JHA IND/EXP 41868). Fact Finding Mission (two weeks, May 2010).  
Objectives: a) to identify priority areas for future EU support to the reform of the judicial system, in view of its alignment to European standards; b) to identify and analyse specific areas, within the judiciary sector, where the lack of progress is particularly relevant to the European integration process and that could therefore be considered for future IPA support particularly within the framework of the Multi-annual Indicative Planning Document (MIPD) for the years 2011-13.
Bosnia and HerzegovinaSeptember 2011 - June 2012Project “Interreligious Dialogue”; Seminars and Report; European Academy Sarajevo and Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Report Sarajevo Dec. 2012)
                                                                                 September 2011Seminar “Constitutional System and Reform Issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina” in Srebrenica; Fondazione Alexander Langer, Bolzano-Bozen, V Settimana Internazionale della Memoria
North Macedonia 
(and SEE)
2 November 2011 Key Note Speaker at Regional Conference in Skopje. Paper Presentation: “Constitutional Challenges of EU Accession for SEE Applicant Countries: A Comparative Approach”; Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Rule of Law in SEE-program
North MacedoniaDecember 2011Expert, Monitoring Missionfor the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe; Country Report on the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Governance in North Macedonia (fYROM)
North MacedoniaApril 
Selected Member State Expert, “Assessment of the Judiciary in Macedonia”, EU Commission TAIEX, DG Enlargement (TAIEX Assessment Mission on Judiciary to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (JHA 48054). (one week, April 2012)
Bosnia and Herzegovina3 December 2012Speaker and selected Member State Expert, “European standards in the field of independence and professionalism of the justice sector, best practices on the role and composition of supreme judicial councils”, Seminar, Sarajevo, EU Commission TAIEX, DG Enlargement (JHA 51155)
Bosnia and HerzegovinaSeptember 2012 - 2013Project “The Constitutional, Legal and Factual Position of the Croat Constituent People”; Seminars and Study; European Academy Sarajevo and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Feb. 2014
Bosnia and HerzegovinaJune 2018Expert, Post-Monitoring Mission for the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in Mostar
Bosnia and HerzegovinaNovember 2018 and February 2019Expert, Monitoring Missionfor the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe; Country Report on the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and HerzegovinaSince July 2018Senior International Legal Advisor on EU integration matters to the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH: Technical assistance and monitoring of reform process at HJPC and in BiH judiciary; coordination with EU Delegation in BiH and European Commission (DG NEAR and DG JUST)

Further Activities and Skills


Since 2011        Member of the Group of Independent Experts (for Germany), 
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe 

                        Monitoring the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

12/2011                  Monitoring mission to North Macedonia (fYROM)

06 + 11/2012           Monitoring mission to United Kingdom

2013 – 2014            Member of study-group on “Regionalism after the Financial Crisis

09/2014                  Post-Monitoring mission to Armenia

04 and 11/2015       Post-Monitoring mission to Armenia

04/2016                  Post-Monitoring mission to Armenia

06/2018                  Post-Monitoring mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar)

11/2018 + 02/2019  Monitoring mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina


UniTrento in the Euregion EGTC “Tirolo-Alto Adige/Südtirol-Trentino”:


Luglio 2018: Euregio - personality of the month (in Italian)

Jens Woelk: "professore senza confini"


July 2018 - January 2020 (leave from University)

Woelk Named Senior International Legal Expert to the HJPC in Sarajevo

Jens Woelk, has been selected as Senior International Legal Expert to the High Judiciary and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Woelk takes up his duties from July 2018, and will remain in the position for two years.

The HJPC is the independent body of judicial self-government in BiH that contributes to strengthening and maintaining independence, accountability, efficiency, professionalism and consistency of the country’s complex justice system. In fact, the country’s unique federal structure is reflected in its judiciary, which is decentralised and consists of four different judicial systems without a Supreme Court. The HJPC is responsible for their coordination, for the appointment and promotion of judges and prosecutors, as well as for conducting disciplinary proceedings and initiating judicial reforms.

Among his many tasks with the organisation, and in close contact with the European Commission, Woelk will provide strategic and technical advice with regards to the EU integration process of Bosnia and Herzegovina in area of the rule of law, including alignment with EU standards and best practices in EU Member States.

Associate Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at the Faculty of Law and the School of International Studies at the University of Trento, and vice head at the Institute for Comparative Federalism at Eurac Research Bolzano/Bozen, Woelk’s research focuses on issues of federalism and regionalism as well as on minority protection and the processes of constitutional transition in South-Eastern Europe. His excellent knowledge of the constitutional framework and judicial context of BiH has been fostered by his work with Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) of the European Commission, with whom he has been working in the areas of Rule of Law and Peer Review of Judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.

“The challenge of my new task will be a change of perspective from academic analysis to operational practice,” says Woelk, “contributing to the evolution of Bosnia’s complex federal system, and preparing it for future accession to the EU. This promises valuable insights which may prove useful for future research and projects on federal systems in transformation processes.”


For more information:

HJPC BiH:                    

EU Delegation to BiH:  

EU and Western Balkans: