24 Jun 25 Jun

Workshop Jean Monnet NOVA-EU: EU Democracy and Rule of Law (webinar)

This workshop forms part of a series of four workshops within the Jean Monnet NOVA-EU project. NOVA-EU aims to stimulate discussion and enhance research into four key challenges:

  • Digitalisation, Ethics and EU Fundamental Rights;
  • Migration and EU Borders;
  • Social and Sustainable Europe v. Free Trade Europe;
  • EU Rule of Law and Democracy (24 & 25 June 2021).

Programme on Thursday 24 June

13.30 Welcome and introduction to the conference and the NOVA-EU project Monica Claes and Andrea Ott (Maastricht University)
13.45 Opening keynotes & discussion
  Edith Zeller (Judge at the Administrative Court of Vienna & President of the European Association of Administrative Judges)
  Kees Sterk (Senior judge & Professor of Administration of European Justice, Maastricht University)
15.00 Panel I - The rule of law as a common EU value
  Franco Peirone (Maastricht University): The ‘Thin’ Rule of Law animating the EU
  Nika Bačić Selanec & Tamara Ćapeta (University of Zagreb): The Rule of Law and Adjudication of the Court of Justice of the EU
16.00 Break
16.30 Panel II - The role of the Court of Justice, national courts and national judges in protecting the rule of law
  Jonas Bornemann (University Konstanz): How should the European Court of Justice respond to illiberal policies?
  Victor Davio (KU Leuven/Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles) & Cécilia Rizcallah (Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles/Université Libre de Bruxelles): The requirement of a tribunal ‘established by law’: the neglected element of the Holy Trinity for the protection of the Judiciary? Reflection on its contours and potential in the context of the rule of law backsliding in Europe
  Karolina Podstawa (Maastricht University) & Jarosław Gwizdak (INPRIS): The Emergence of an Activist European Union Judges Movement - the Tale of (Polish) Resilience and Compassion Beyond Border
18.00 End 


Programme on Friday 25 June

10.00 Opening by Bruno De Witte (Maastricht University)
10.15 Panel III - New actors and instruments to protect EU values
  Thomas Conzelmann (Maastricht University): Peer reviewing the rule of law? A new mechanism to safeguard EU values
  Niels Kirst (Dublin City University): Positions, Roles and Impact of National Parliaments in the European Union’s Rule of Law Crisis
  Marco Fisicaro (University of Catania): Beyond The Rule Of Law Conditionality: Exploiting The Eu Spending Power To Foster European Values
  Isabel Staudinger (University of Salzburg): Conditionality and the European Green Deal: complying with the rule of law for a green, digital and resilient recovery of the economy
12.15 Break
13.30 Panel IV - Beyond the crisis: new perspectives on democracy and the rule of law in the EU
  Franca Feisel (European University Institute): The EU as a militant democracy – defending transnational democracy for its own sake
  Maarten Stremler (Maastricht University): EU Values: Constitutional Framework or Political Programme?
  Giovanni De Gregorio (University of Oxford): The Rise of European Digital Constitutionalism: The Role of Democracy and Rule of Law in the Information Society
  Alicja Sikora (Jagiellonian University/Council of the EU): Shaping environmental democracy in the EU legal order
15.30 Break
15.45 Concluding keynote and discussion
  Paul Nemitz (Principal Adviser, European Commission and Visiting Professor of Law, College of Europe)
16.45 Conclusions by Matteo Bonelli (Maastricht University)
17.00 End




In recent years, the EU has been confronted with constitutional crises in EU Member States, especially in Hungary and Poland. Theses crises pose systemic threats to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights as common values of the European integration process (Art. 2 TEU) and endanger mutual trust among the Member States. Until now, and despite some positive recent developments, these threats have not been sufficiently addressed by current Treaty tools, including most importantly the Art. 7 TEU mechanism and the infringement procedure. The EU is thus called to develop a more structured and consistent approach, also in order address the criticism that it is applying ‘double standards’: while for third countries, and in particular accession candidates, EU institutions have set up robust mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing democratic and rule of law obligations, both the standards applied and the level of scrutiny seem to be more lenient for Union members.

In the last months, two new instruments have been added to the EU toolkit. First, the Commission launched the ‘Rule of Law Reports’, a new monitoring mechanism that covers not only potential culprits, but all EU Member States, and would serve to detect possible threats at an early stage and possibly form the basis for broader peer review exercises. Second, after a long and controversial negotiation and a Hungarian and Polish veto that halted the process for weeks, the Council and the European Parliament approved the so-called ‘rule of law conditionality regulation’, which makes it possible for EU institutions to suspend, under certain circumstances, the distribution of EU money in case of rule of law breaches in a Member State. It is however becoming increasingly clear that there is no silver bullet, and that stronger enforcement may even backfire and contribute to further divisions in Europe between East and West, bolstering support for illiberal leaders at the national level. At the end of the day, what is needed is a strong democratic and rule of law culture that is strongly rooted in the ‘hearts and minds’ of office holders and citizens alike. In this direction, one of the latest initiatives is the European Democracy Action Plan launched by the Commission in December 2020, which envisages ambitious measures to promote free and fair elections, strengthen media freedom and counter disinformation.


Also read