ELSA was founded in Vienna, Austria, on May 4th, 1981. During the times of the Iron Curtain, five students coming from Austria, Hungary, Poland and West Germany saw the need to promote international cooperation and mutual understanding among law students on both West and East Europe.
The first international office of ELSA was established in Oslo, Norway.
Trainees from different European countries were sent to Canada through the Canadian Training Programme and the first steps for the establishment of ELSA’s traineeship programme were made.
The traineeship programme of ELSA was named as Short-Term Exchange Programme (now “Student Trainee Exchange Programme”) and the abbreviation STEP was born.
The first printed newsletter of ELSA was published under the name “ELSA Synergy”.
ELSA Synergy was upgraded to an international members’ magazine and renamed to Synergy Magazine. The Synergy Magazine contains articles from partners, members, institutions and academics. Today, it is printed in over 10,000 copies and is distributed in more than 300 law faculties and institutions all around Europe.
Two International Presidents’ Meetings were decided to be held annually in addition to the already established two International Council Meetings, which are the meetings of the decision-making body of the association. The Presidents of the National Groups of ELSA are subsequently given the opportunity to meet with each other, discuss important issues and make proposals to the Council. Since then, four statutory meetings are held every year.
The philosophy statement of ELSA was adopted in Brussels, Belgium, on October 12th, 1992. Since then, the association has been envisaging “a just world in which there is respect for human dignity and cultural diversity.”
The office of ELSA was moved to Brussels, Belgium.
90s were very important for the development of the institutional relations. In 1994 ELSA was granted a Consultative Status in Category C in the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. This was followed by obtaining a Special Consultative Status with the same institution three years later. This created a platform for the overall involvement in the UN bodies.
The first edition of the Guide of Legal Studies in Europe was published with the support of the European Commission, the Law Society of England and Wales and the Rijksuniversiteit Limburg (now “Maastricht University) in the Netherlands. The Guide aimed at favouring the mobility of law students around Europe.
Due to the rapid growing of the association, the headquarters of ELSA were moved to their current location in Brussels, Belgium. Since then, the famous ELSA House has been hosting a full-time working International Board.
ELSA established the International Focus Programme, which aims at raising awareness of a specific theme for whole ELSA Network over a fixed term. In this way, ELSA creates a forum where law students and young lawyers can gather and discuss a current theme at various activities.
The first edition of the ELSA House Summer Programme was organised in Brussels, Belgium. This training event aimed at bringing law students from all around Europe to attend sessions on personal and professional skills.
The well-established ELSA House Summer Programme was renamed to ELSA House Training Week drawing attention to training nature and the duration of the event.
A pool of qualified trainers ready to deliver training sessions around Europe was established as the International Trainers’ Pool.
The first edition of the ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law (EMC2) was launched in August 2002. Since then, ELSA has been cooperating with the World Trade Organisation for a competition that has expanded to the whole globe, giving the opportunity to law students to learn, prepare written submissions and plead before famous trade experts on cases regarding the legal framework that the WTO has developed. EMC2 is now the biggest project of ELSA.
In 2006, the association turned 25 years, and celebrated at the same time the 50th International Council Meeting, the 40th edition of the Synergy Magazine and the 5th edition of the ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law. For a quarter of a century, ELSA influenced the lives of law students and young lawyers in Europe and was an important independent actor in the European legal community.
ELSA is cooperating very closely with the Council of Europe already since 2000, when was the association granted Participatory Status with this organization. This cooperation was further widened with the signing of a Human Rights Partnership between Council of Europe and ELSA. This partnership provides our members with various opportunities and professional support.
The Council of the association decided to establish a new statutory position in the International Board. The Vice President for Moot Court Competitions has raised the number of the Board members to 8 people.
The first edition of the European Human Rights Moot Court Competition was launched in July 2012. Since then, ELSA has been cooperating with the Council of Europe for a Europe-wide competition that simulates the procedure of applications to the European Court of Human Rights and provides law students with the opportunity to understand the principles and implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Keen in raising awareness on Human Rights, the association established the ELSA Day in 2013. Since then, the motto “All different, all together” has been defining one day as the ELSA Day every year. The entire ELSA Network works together to forge a unique Human Rights forum for discussions and projects related to International and European standards of protection and implementation of Human Rights.
The first edition of the re-established ELSA Law Review was published. The ELSA Law Review is a student-edited and peer-reviewed law journal aiming at creating an open forum for legal analysis and discussion and at serving as an international platform through which engaged law students, law graduates and young legal professionals can showcase their legal research.
In autumn 2015, approximately half a year before it turned 35 years old, ELSA welcomed its 40th full member.
The ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law (EMC2) was renamed after John Howard Jackson, one of the chief architects of the World Trade Organisation, and has since been organised under the name of John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition.
A framework agreement between ELSA and ELSA Alumni was signed in the ELSA House on the 22nd of June 2020, establishing the future partnership of the two associations.
At the 78th International Council Meeting, the Council took a big step by fully digitising the Synergy Magazine, ensuring the sustainability of the project.
In celebration of ELSA’s 40th birthday, the Network came together during various online meetings to learn more about ELSA’s history and the people that came before.
The European Human Rights Moot Court Competition was renamed after Helga Pedersen, a previous Danish Judge to the European Court of Human Rights and the first female judge appointed at the ECtHR. As of the 10th edition, the competition will be organised under the name of Helga Pedersen Moot Court Competition.
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