Contemporary history of Europe

Rule of Law, Democracy and the EU-East enlargement:Case Study on Hungary and Poland

The European Communities (founded in 1951) with the ECSC and then the European Union started out as an exclusively west European enterprise. The guarantee of the “rule of law” was one of the criteria for accession to the European Union which the EU defined at the Copenhagen European Council in 1993, together with stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities. the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. In their Constitutions today, all the countries of Central and East Europe confess to the “rule of law” as either a fundamental prerequisite or one of the highest values/a fundamental value of the constitutional order as stated (by Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland), or by declaring their country operates under or is based on the “rule of law” as stated (by the Baltic countries, Hungary), or that it is a “law-governed state” as stated by (Bulgaria; Romania). In doing so, the countries confess to the “rule of law” at least in its formalistic understanding.The crucial question is what the “rule of law” as referred to by the EU in the Copenhagen Criteria and by the Constitutions of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe effectively means. What is the state practice?

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