20 Nov 2013

The Triangular Relationship between Fundamental Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law in the EU

Towards an EU Copenhagen Mechanism

Sergio Carrera / Elspeth Guild / Nicholas Hernanz

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This study examines the protection of fundamental rights, democracy and rule of law in the European Union, and the challenges that arise in reflecting on ways to strengthen EU competences in these contested terrains. It provides a ‘state of play’ and critical account of EU-level policy and legal mechanisms assessing the relationship between rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in the member states of the Union. The cross-cutting challenges affecting their uses, effective implementation and practical operability constitute a central point of the analysis. The study argues that the relationship between rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights is co-constitutive. Any future rule of law-related policy discussion in the EU should start from an understanding of the triangular relationship between these dimensions from the perspective of ‘democratic rule of law with fundamental rights’, i.e. the legally based rule of a democratic state that delivers fundamental rights. The three criteria are inherently and indivisibly interconnected, and interdependent on each of the others, and they cannot be separated without inflicting profound damage to the whole and changing its essential shape and configuration.

Sergio Carrera, Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs Section, Centre for European Policy Studies, CEPS; Elspeth Guild, Senior Associate Research Fellow, Justice and Home Affairs, CEPS, and Jean Monnet Professor ad personam of European Migration Law at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom; Nicholas Hernanz, Research Assistant, Justice and Home Affairs Section, CEPS.

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