The rule of law as a well‑established and well‑defined principle of EU law

Pech, Laurent ORCID logoORCID: (2022) The rule of law as a well‑established and well‑defined principle of EU law. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 14 (2-3) . pp. 107-138. ISSN 1876-4045 [Article] (doi:10.1007/s40803-022-00176-8)

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Against increasing rule of law backsliding within the EU, the European Commission has presented the rule of law as a well-established and well-defined principle whose core meaning is furthermore shared as a common value among all Member States. In refute, the national governments of the two EU countries, which are both subject to special EU procedures on account of the systemic threat to the rule of law their repeated actions have caused, have claimed that the rule of law is neither defined in EU law, nor could it be defined in EU law. This article’s primary aim is to assess these conflicting assertions. It does so by first offering an overview of the EU legal framework on the basis of which it is shown that the rule of law, as asserted by the Commission, is a well-established constitutional principle of EU law. It furthermore shows that it is well-defined, not least because of the Court of Justice’s extensive case law, the European Commission’s definitional codification of it and most recently, the adoption of the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation 2020/2092 which provides the first comprehensive allen compassing internal-oriented definition of the rule of law adopted by the EU co-legislators. This article furthermore contends that the EU’s understanding of the rule of law reflects what may be presented as a broad consensus in the European legal space on its core meaning and components; its legal use as a primary principle of judicial interpretation and a source from which standards of judicial review may be derived; and how the rule of law relates to other fundamental values. Finally, this article concludes by examining the reality of a potentially emerging East-West dissensus as regards the rule of law. In light of evidence of strong and widespread support for the rule of law in every single EU Member State in the face of top-down attempts to systemically undermine it, it is however submitted that there is no meaningful East-West divide but an authoritarian-liberal divide at elite level.

Item Type: Article
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Law
Item ID: 35338
Notes on copyright: © The Author(s) 2022
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
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Depositing User: Laurent Pech
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2022 12:04
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2022 18:14

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