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10 - Enforcing Europe's Foundational Values in Central and Eastern Europe: A Case in Point

from PART ONE - THE COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2017

Tine Carmeliet
Affiliation:
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC
Georgia Christina Kosmidou
Affiliation:
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Ever since the inception of the EU, respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights has constituted a corner stone of the European integration project. Indeed, the founding EU member states contemplated political and economic cooperation based on their mutual respect for the principle of liberal democracy. The importance of liberal democracy can clearly be seen in the early case law of the CJEU, such as the seminal judgment Internationale Handelsgesellschaft proves. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, respect for democracy and the rule of law gained a newly elevated position within the Union's legal framework. In particular, the introduction of Article 2 TEU reaffirms the EU's commitment towards its foundational values, by stating that, inter alia, it is founded on the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law and that these constitute a common heritage of the member states. Article 49 TEU finally also stipulates that “any European state which respects the values referred to in Article 2” can join the EU, and in so doing renders democratic governance and respect for human rights a sine qua non condition and a minimum common denominator for the member states.

However, despite the EU's renewed commitment towards its foundational values, in recent years, more and more worrying undemocratic and even authoritarian tendencies have been noticed within the European member states. While 2014 marked the 10-year anniversary of the Eastern enlargement, there is little reason to celebrate as democracy is struggling in several countries that joined the EU during the last decade. Ruling leaders have tried to centralize their executive power and undermine the rule of law by breaking the constraints of the checks and balances, thereby affecting the quality and stability of the democratic regimes. Amongst them, Hungary has led the trend. Since the 2010 election of Viktor Orban and his right wing conservative party Fidesz, Hungary has been backsliding to authoritarianism. The two thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament has empowered Fidesz to adopt legislation without the need for political compromise. Various amendments to the constitution have curbed Hungary's achievements of liberal democracy. This is evident by the fact that – just to name a few – the freedom of religion, the freedom of the media, and the powers of the judiciary and the Central Bank have been restricted.

Hungary is nonetheless not the only country backsliding to authoritarianism.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2015

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