Between the 3rd and 6th of September 2023, the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence for the Rule of Law and European Values (CRoLEV), co-funded by the European Union and running at UCLan Cyprus for the period 2022-2025, participated in the 53rd Annual UACES Conference held in Belfast Northern Ireland. CRoLEV, in collaboration with the project CITIZENS-LAW, successfully organised and ran a themed track entitled ‘The Rule of Law under scrutiny: Interdisciplinary, Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives’. Professor Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou, Professor of EU Law and Reform and Head, School of Law, UCLan Cyprus and CRoLEV Director, and Dr Andreas Marcou, Lecturer in EU Law and Theory and CRoLEV Project Manager, represented the CRoLEV Team, while Professor Marc Hertogh, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, University of Groningen represented the CITIZENS-LAW project. The themed track, which examined the broad question of the rule of law from various perspectives comprised of three panels: EU Governance and European Values, Sociological Approaches to the Rule of Law, and Democracy and other values.
The first panel featured three presentations. Dr Cristina Saenz Perez discussed the ‘Principle of Non-regression as Safeguard of the Rule of Law’, Dr Ian Cooper focused on ‘The New Rule of Law Conditionality Regime for the EU Budget: Protecting EU Funds or EU values’, and Dr Evans Fanoulis raised the question of ‘From Governmentality to Inter-governmentality in European Integration’. All three presentations were geared towards examining questions related to the rule of law as those arise at the European level. In particular, they examined how the rule of law breakdown in multiple European countries has prompted extensive discussions on the safeguarding of the rule of law at various levels. Yet the papers presented and the audience discussion that followed revealed serious concern about both the legal means through which the rule of law can be safeguarded, but also about how political processes at the EU level may be sufficient (or even capable) of truly securing European values.
The second panel presented an interdisciplinary discussion on how the rule of law can be measured and understood from empirical perspectives. In this panel, Prof. Laulhé Shaelou and Prof. Hertogh presented CRoLEV and CITIZENS-LAW respectively. Prof. Shaelou in a presentation entitled ‘The Societal Reality of the Rule of Law and Democratic Values in Europe-a proposed methodology’ offered a glimpse into the motivation behind CRoLEV, while also situating the empirical research undertaken at the Centre within the multiple crises that have plagued the European Union during the last few years. In his presentation ‘The EU Rule of Law Crisis from an Empirical Perspective: Exploring the Contours of a Social Science That Does Not Yet Exist’, Prof. Hertogh presented the methodology CITIZENS-LAW is following in attempting to identify and measure the social foundations of the rule of law through a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods. The panel concluded with a presentation from Ms Eva Grosfeld and Prof. Armin Cuyvers, who discussed ‘Citizens’ Values and Public Legitimacy of the EU: Combining Social Psychology with EU Law to Understand and Improve EU Legitimacy’. Detailing the findings of their empirical work, they emphasised how important the rule of law, and other moral values, are to EU citizens, while also examining the extent to which EU law reflects those values. The presentations provoked an inspired discussion on the use of empirical methodologies in the study and the measurement of the rule of law, including debates on the theoretical backgrounds that enable empirical research.
The final panel focusing on Democracy and its protection across the EU and beyond included three presentations. The first presentation looked at the question of whether ‘Revolving Doors Endanger or Strengthen the Rule of Law in the EU’. Presenting the findings of their empirical work, Dr Verena Rošic Feguš and Dr Emilia Korkea-aho touched on fascinating questions about the movement of individuals between the public and the private sphere and the way in which such movement may or may not undermine the rule of law. Dr Eli Gateva, in her presentation entitled ‘Democracy Promotion and Safeguarding After Accession: Does the EU Matter?’ raised intriguing questions about whether the Union can effectively monitor and safeguard democratic developments in its Member States by focusing on the experience of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in Bulgaria and Romania. The panel’s last presentation was delivered by Dr Andreas Marcou who explored ‘The Struggle for European Values in the EU: Populism, the Rule of Law, and Democracy’. By discussing the ways in which populist actors undermine the rule of law, the presentation attempted to draw intrinsic connections between the rule of law and democracy. Following the presentations, a lively audience discussion explored further key themes raised in the presentations such as the link between various European values, the attempts of the EU to enhance democracy, and the various potential threats to European values that obtain today.
The themed track co-organised by CRoLEV and CITIZENS-LAW brought together a series of inspired academics examining questions of the rule of law and European values from various perspectives. As the rule of law and other European values are not merely legal principles but have also emerged as key social components of life within the EU, it is imperative that investigation of those values and principles should be open to interdisciplinary perspectives. The different panels feature multiple presentations by both junior and senior researchers that attempted to further knowledge in the area by combining theoretical approaches to empirical, by collecting data through various methodologies, and by looking at questions of the rule of law and European values in a spherical manner.
For more information about the 53rd UACES Annual Conference, you may visit https://www.uaces.org/belfast
For more information on CRoLEV’s partner project CITIZENS-LAW, please view https://citizens-law.eu/en/