When Journalists Weaken Democracy or How to Better Communicate the Rule of Law

Discussing years of controversies between Polish lawyers and the ruling Law and Justice party, the law professor Marcin Matczak concluded: “We won the legal discussions, but we lost the public debate.” Despite manifest violations of the law, Poland’s ruling party did not lose votes in recent parliamentary elections. In Hungary the situation seems to have been even worse. The public debate was not lost, it hardly took place. That’s a problem.

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The Rule of Law Crisis as the Watershed Moment for the European Constitutionalism

Is a soft law instrument the right object of assessment in a situation where most commentators on the ongoing rule of law crisis summarise previous EU actions with the statement: too late, too long, too mild? This piece offers a look at the July blueprint for action as a political declaration which provides important general statements regarding the concept of the rule of law within the EU legal system in times of democratic backsliding in Member States.

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Old friends, new friends? Prospects for EU’s cooperation with intergovernmental organisations in promotion of the rule of law

In its July 2019 blueprint for action on the rule of law, the European Commission has outlined three main avenues of action on the rule of law in the EU: prevention, response and promotion.

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Fundamentals on Defending European Values

In 2007, the Treaty makers ennobled the former fundamental principles of the Treaty on European Union as European values. Respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and the protection of human rights have henceforth transcended the sphere of ‘merely’ legal matters. Today, however, this step feeds a perception of a deep crisis: when founding values appear weak or controversial, the entire house may crumble.

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The von der Leyen Commission and the Future of the Rule of Law

Ursula von der Leyen’s promotional tour before her election did not turn out well. She failed to point to substantive rule of law issues, rather she traced back the division between Eastern and Western European state to emotional components. This text takes a look beyond the political rhetoric and explores what the new Commission might entail for the rule of law in the EU.

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Threats to Brazilian Democracy Gain Traction

Democracy in Brazil is under attack and facing a significant level of backsliding. The developments in recent years, from Dilma Rousseff’s parliamentary coup to Jair Bolsonaro’s ascent to power, have shown that democracy erodes in an incremental process. Lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro has recently taken another step in that direction when he publicly suggested that a 1964-1985 dictatorship’s decree should be repeated in case the Brazilian left-wing movements took a more radical position. His statements are prohibited under Brazilian law and Brazil’s institutions need to hold Eduardo Bolsonaro accountable in order to put brakes on the country’s democratic decline.

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10 Anti-Constitutional Commandments

Poland is on the eve of the parliamentary elections to be held on October 13, 2019. This provides a good opportunity to step back for a second to analyse the turbulent years of 2015-2019 and to piece together scattered elements of a new constitutional doctrine that has emerged since November 2015. Such a perspective should help readers of Verfassungsblog to truly understand and appreciate the scale and depth of the change that has happened to the prevalent (and what was presumed to be unshakeable) post-1989 constitutional paradigms.

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Luxemburg as the Last Resort

A criminal proceeding has been suspended by a Hungarian justice of the Pest Central District Court to ask the European Court of Justice preliminary questions, inter alia, about his own judicial independence. Now, Hungary’s Supreme Court has stepped in and ruled that the reference was illegal, essentially arguing that preliminary references are not the fora to discuss such claims. In fact, however, this preliminary reference reveals that all other means to effectively challenge the rule of law backsliding in Hungary have failed.

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The Commission’s Rule of Law Blueprint for Action: A Missed Opportunity to Fully Confront Legal Hooliganism

In its first Communication entitled “Further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union” published on 3 April 2019, the Commission offered a useful overview of the state of play while also positively inviting all stakeholders to make concrete proposals so as to enhance the EU’s “rule of law toolbox”. A follow up Communication from July 2019 sets out multiple “concrete actions for the short and medium term”. This post will highlight the most innovative actions proposed by the Commission before highlighting what we view as the main weakness of its blueprint: a reluctance to fully accept the reality of rule of law backsliding.

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A Hungarian Judge Seeks Protection from the CJEU – Part II

In 2012, Hungary introduced a unique system of judicial administration that was criticized by domestic and international actors. This criticism has been validated by events since then which have shown that the National Judicial Council, the highest collective body of judges, is practically unable to counter-balance the broad powers of the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO). This has caused tensions between judges and the judicial administration, something that was predictable in 2012 when the system was introduced and has led to what can only be described as a ‘constitutional crisis’.

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