2425 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).



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.

Call for Papers

We welcome applications from both junior (PhD or postdoctoral level) and senior researchers, in particular on the following topics:

  • What is there to protect? Democracy and the rule of law as common values of the European Union, and the question of (the lack of) common standards;
  • Monitoring, peer review, and measuring democracy and the rule of law, in particular with reference to the Commission Rule of Law Reports;
  • The use of conditionality as a tool to protect and promote democracy and the rule of law, before and after accession, and the new Regulation ‘on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget’
  • The role of European and national courts and judges in protecting democracy and the rule of law, as well as the role of new actors (civil society, NGOs, citizens, agencies, etc);
  • Possible new paths and initiatives for the protection and promotion of democracy and the rule of law in the EU and the Member States.

We are looking in particular for contributions dealing with the legal dimension of the topics just mentioned, but are open to receiving also proposals that combine the legal method with other methodological approaches. We strongly encourage participants to reflect on the problems also from a policy perspective, with the view of offering policy recommendations during the workshop. The latter will form a springboard for a policy brief to be presented to the European Commission as one of the outputs of the project.

Selected authors will be asked to deliver a draft paper two weeks before the workshop. Publication plans will be communicated at a later stage, and may include publication in the Maastricht Faculty of Law Working Paper series, and/or a special issue or online collection.

Practical info:

  • abstract of 500-words by 28 February 2021, together with a short bio (click on the green button on this webpage in order to submit)
  • notification of acceptance by 19 March 2021
  • draft paper by 11 June 2021
  • workshop on 24 & 25 June 2021 (webinar)