This is not the End: What lies ahead for the VDL Commission in terms of Brexit

Brexit is the ‘shock’ that united Europe according to the President-elect of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. There’s certainly an element of truth to this. Despite some occasional signs of disagreement, the EU-27 have given every show of maintaining a unified position in all stages of the Brexit process so far. There may be a tempting political expediency of prioritising a unified position on Brexit (no doubt in ‘protection of the European project as a whole’) above holding individual Member States’ governments’ to account for measures which further and entrench rule of law backsliding. This post aims to outline only some of those challenges, and highlight outstanding issues, in the years of the Brexit process ahead.

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Markus Söder gegen den Rechtsstaat

Seit Jahren bricht die Bayerische Regierung fröhlich die Verfassung: Sie weigert sich so beharrlich, rechtskräftige Urteile umzusetzen, dass der Bayerische Verwaltungsgerichtshof überlegen muss, ob Markus Söder durch Zwangshaft zur Vernunft gebracht werden kann. Der Fall liegt inzwischen beim EuGH, wo am vergangenen Donnerstag der Generalanwalt seine Schlussanträge gehalten hat. Zeit für ein paar grundlegende Erinnerungen an den Rechtsstaat.

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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 Impossibility of Upholding the Rule of Law When You Don’t Know the Rules of the Law

On October 28 2019, it became known that the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration has been systematically breaching the rule of law for years when it applied the EEA legislation incorrectly in cases of unemployment and sickness benefits and work assessment allowances. According to the Attorney General, at least 48 people have been wrongly convicted of social security fraud, 36 of whom have been sentenced to prison. Later investigations have revealed that the number is much higher. This blatant disregard of the rule of law illustrates what happens when political pressure meets legal professionals, judges and an administration who are blissfully ignorant when it comes to European law.

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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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So Why Don’t We Just Call the Whole Rule of Law Thing Off, Then?

Civil society is aware of the dual standards vis-à-vis the rule of law, which emerge when one compares the Commission’s reaction to troublesome developments in Bulgaria to its policies on Poland, Hungary, and Romania. The latest CVM report on Bulgaria not only confirms this, but also leaves the impression that the Commission has given up on Bulgaria’s rule of law.

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