Protecting the rule of law in EU Member States and Candidate Countries

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Series Details Number 12
Publication Date October 2020
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The rule of law is defined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) as a shared value on which the Union is rooted. As such, it defines the collective identity of the whole organisation and constitutes a condition for EU membership. Despite already advanced EU policies to promote the rule of law, within as well as beyond EU borders, not only EU aspirants but also several EU Member States are currently confronted with grave threats to the functioning of the rule of law.

This text highlights a double challenge to the EU’s role in ensuring the rule of law within the Union and promoting it in future Member States. By analysing the EU’s role and policy options to promote the rule of law, it will be seen how both the internal and the external dimensions of EU rule of law promotion suffer from deficiencies, while the solution for the observed problems lays in aligning these policies together. In order to address these deficiencies, a series of recommendations is presented, involving, for example, transparency, independent state agencies, civil society, monitoring instruments and conditionality strategies.

According to the authors, there is finally a need for a conceptual shift: it should be recognised that problems in regard to the rule of law are often the result of a deliberate policy of autocrats and not the accidental by-product of weak states.

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