The Value of Democracy in EU Law and Its Enforcement: A Legal Analysis

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. Democracy as a value of EU Law. – II.1. The development of the value of democracy in the European Union – II.2. The value of democracy in art. 2 TEU and the Copenhagen criteria – III. The value of democracy beyond art. 2 TEU. – III.1. Right to vote and to stand as a candidate – III.2. Art. 10 TEU – III.3. Art. 21 TEU – III.4. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU – IV. Enforcing Democracy Beyond Art. 7 TEU. – IV.1. Problematising art. 7 – IV.2. Centralised enforcement – IV.3. Decentralised enforcement – V. Conclusion.

Abstract: This Article analyses several ways in which democracy as a core value of the European Union can be enforced against member States violating democratic principles. Following the crisis of democratic backsliding in several Member States, no legal action has been taken on the basis of a breach of democracy or democratic principles. A possible explanation is that violations of art. 2 TEU are subject to a specific enforcement procedure (laid down in art. 7 TEU), which is notoriously hard to trigger. Furthermore, since art. 2 TEU refers to abstract values, it is frequently asserted that values such as “democracy” cannot be legally enforced. This Article, however, claims that the value of democracy has a sufficiently clear core legal meaning in EU law to be legally enforceable. Secondly, this Article claims that EU law includes numerous other centralized (at EU level) and decentralized (at Member State level) enforcement mechanisms beyond art. 7 TEU that can be used to enforce democratic principles. The current absence of enforcement action against such Member States, therefore, is largely a political choice instead of a legal requirement.

Keywords: EU law – democracy – enforcement – judicial protection – fundamental rights – art. 2 TEU.

European Papers, Vol. 8, 2023, No 2, pp. 809-851
ISSN 2499-8249
- doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/690

* PhD candidate and lecturer in EU law, University of Groningen,


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