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Faculty & Research

New Research Project Addresses Rule Of Law Crisis In The European Union

Entitled “The New EU Instruments For The Protection Of The Rule Of Law: Towards A Techno-managerial Strategy?” (MEDROI), this research project led by Arnaud Van Waeyenberge, HEC Paris Professor of European Union Law and Roïla Mavrouli, CNRS PostDoc Research Fellow, and gathering a consortium of six other European researchers of various disciplines, has been selected to receive a two-year grant by the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche). A major contribution to proposing solutions to the recent infringement of the rule of law in the EU Member States.

The Schuman roundabout, in Brussels, for the 2021 Europe day; the Justus Lipsius building in the background_ c European Union, 2021


Producing research with impact - research that helps everyone to acquire a better understanding of the world and further enlighten decision-makers - is at the core of HEC Paris’ mission. Arnaud Van Waeyenberge’s research project (MEDROI ANR Project) is thus a perfect illustration of this ambition to contribute to society. It tackles a highly critical subject, both for the EU democracy and for its citizens’ rights, and is a very solution-oriented project that will lead to concrete recommendations on how to overcome the ineffectiveness of the legal mechanisms for protecting the rule of law.


The EU rule of law crisis

Today, Europe’s “crisis of values” is related to the numerous challenges the EU has faced in recent years – such as the sovereign debt crisis, the security crisis linked to the threat of terrorism, and the migration crisis. It has been characterized by a systemic deterioration in certain Member States of the EU’s founding values. In particular, two Member States – Hungary and Poland – are experiencing a significant decline in the rule of law, which has involved the establishment of electoral autocracies that seek to undermine the limits on the exercise of executive power in order to keep the dominant political party in power in the long term. To a lesser extent, other European states are also affected by this challenge to the foundations of the rule of law (e.g. Malta, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic). At the EU level, this “rule of law crisis” engenders a real identity crisis, given that it undermines the axiological dimension of the European project, according to which Member States share both a common ideal and a common destiny.

Faced with the ineffectiveness of the legal mechanisms for protecting the rule of law by its Member States (art. 7 TEU), the European Union has developed a new strategy of relying on economic and techno-managerial instruments that were not specifically designed to protect the rule of law, such as the European Semester, the European Structural and Investment Funds and the European budget. One of the consequences of this strategy is that only certain dimensions of the rule of law are effectively protected by the European Union, namely those related to financial stability, growth and competitiveness, to the detriment of other dimensions, such as the redistribution of wealth or the fight against inequalities. The very notion of the rule of law is therefore being transformed at European level to the extent that it is questionable whether the Union itself respects the rule of law in its struggle to ensure respect for it and whether it is not contributing to aggravating the crisis.

Designing credible solutions to strengthen the protection of the rule of law in the EU Member States

Considering that few studies have analysed the use of mechanisms to protect the rule of law that were not specifically designed for this purpose and their consequences for the way in which the Union ensures respect for the rule of law, the MEDROI project presents a considerable originality not only by addressing the issue of the crisis of the rule of law from the point of view of the EU and with regards to its consequences for the EU, but as well as by putting the European situation into perspective in regard to other international standards. In concrete terms, this project aims to determine to what extent the conception of the rule of law effectively promoted by the Union is inspired by, and in line with, those developed at the international level.

At the end of the two years covered by the project, MEDROI will primarily make it possible to: identify the conception of the rule of law that is effectively produced by the EU through its new strategy and to compare it with European and international standards for the protection of the rule of law; to assess the effectiveness of the protection of the rule of law in the EU; and to propose credible solutions to strengthen the protection of the rule of law in the EU Member States.

As deliverables, the MEDROI project will result in several scientific publications (research reports, articles in peer review journals and a book), in the organization of scientific events (research seminars and an international conference), the establishment of a transnational network of researchers working on the rule of law crisis in Europe, awareness-raising activities for stakeholders (especially EU institutions) and for civil society, and participation in the “Public Interest Clinic” to deal with cases involving violations of the rule of law.

A consortium of European researchers across diverse disciplines

Francesco Martucci (Professor of Law at Paris 2), a specialist in the Economic and Monetary Union, and Frédéric Marty (researcher in economics at CNRS / GREDEG) will provide their expertise when it comes to the analysis of the economic and managerial mechanisms used by the EU in order to preserve the rule of law, since their main area of research is European economic law.

Ramona Coman (professor of political science at ULB) will provide her expertise in the rule of law crisis in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Frédéric Lebaron’expertise (professor of sociology at the École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay) in the field of economic sociology analysis will be particularly valuable.

Louise Fromont (Chargée de recherches F.R.S.-FNRS), a specialist in fundamental rights and economic policy, and Ludovic Hennebel (professor of law at Aix-Marseille), a specialist in international human rights law, will be significantly involved in the research. Their expertise will provide points for comparison with existing systems for the protection of the rule of law at the international level and in other regional systems for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.