Reconciling the Theory and the Practice of the Rule of Law in the European Union Measuring the Rule of Law

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Publication Date 2022
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The Rule of Law has gained global appeal and recognition, and is one of the fundamental values upon which the European Union (EU) is based, as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union.

In Sect. 1, we briefly consider the main elements of the Rule of Law, in particular those definitions used in the context of the EU, the Council of Europe and the United Nations (UN). Whilst acknowledging that there are national differences among EU Member States, there is broad consensus around the core meaning of the Rule of Law. These definitional issues help frame the discussion that follows on measuring the Rule of Law.

In Sect. 2, we outline some general considerations regarding the rationale for measuring the Rule of Law, followed by some specific examples of measurement tools in the context of the Council of Europe (e.g., the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) tools on evaluating the efficiency and quality of European judicial systems, and the Venice Commission Rule of Law Checklist); the EU (e.g., the EU Justice Scoreboard, the Special Eurobarometer on the Rule of Law, and the Rule of Law Report); and the UN (e.g., the Sustainable Development Goals).

In Sect. 3, we consider current Rule of Law trends in light of results from a range of datasets (including the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) indices, the Democracy Barometer, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI), and the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index).

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