Reference : The Limits of the European Union’s Transformative Power: Pathologies of Europeanizati...
Dissertations and theses : Doctoral thesis
Law, criminology & political science : Political science, public administration & international relations
The Limits of the European Union’s Transformative Power: Pathologies of Europeanization and Rule of Law Reform in Central and Eastern Europe
Mendelski, Martin mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > > ; University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) > Institute of Political Science]
University of Luxembourg, ​Luxembourg, ​​Luxembourg
Docteur en Sciences Politiques
Harmsen, Robert
Lehners, Jean-Paul
Morlino, Leonardo
Pridham, Geoffrey
Koff, Harlan
[en] European Union ; Rule of law ; Central and Eastern Europe ; Europeanization ; Judicial reforms
[en] This thesis examines the impact of the European Union (EU) on the development of the rule of law in Central and Eastern Europe. The topic is addressed through a mixed methods study which consists of a quantitative comparative analysis of three country groups from Central and Eastern Europe (1. Central Europe and the Baltics, CEB; 2. South Eastern Europe, SEE; 3. Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS) and three qualitative case studies on Poland, Romania and Moldova. The empirical analysis is based on an innovative set of indicators and revealing insights from numerous qualitative interviews.

The findings of the study suggest that the impact of the EU is differential, both healthy and pathological. While EU-driven judicial reforms increase judicial capacity and align domestic legislation with European and international standards (substantive legality), they do not improve and even lead to a deterioration of judicial impartiality and formal legality, resulting in several reform pathologies, such as instable, incoherent and non-enforced laws and in more politicized and incoherent judicial systems, which undermine the development of the rule of law. These pathological effects occur mostly in weak rule of law countries from SEE (Romania) and CIS (Moldova), in contrast to more healthy effects in advanced, strong rule of law countries from CEB (Poland).

The dissimilar development in the rule of law across countries is explained in relation to the conduct of reforms. Successful reformers like Poland, which consolidate the rule of law, have strong and independent horizontal accountability institutions (e.g. Constitutional Court, Ombudsman, judiciary), which mitigate or alleviate reform pathologies and ensure that reforms are conducted in an accountable, gradual and non-politicized way. Unsuccessful reformers, like Romania and Moldova, lack these independent checks on reformers and thus fail to establish the rule of law. Based on the findings from the case studies an original typology of healthy and pathological reform paths is proposed, which draws on the logic of circular and cumulative causation and emphasizes the mutual reinforcement between domestic conditions and the reform approach of transnational coalitions. The proposed typology implies that EU conditionality is not transformative, but rather reinforces existing healthy and pathological reform paths, thus cementing the existing divergence in the rule of law across post-communist countries. This thesis further makes several policy recommendations to remedy the pathological impact of donor-driven reforms.

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