Rule of Law Conditionality on EU Funds: Why this addition to the rule of law toolbox is important in addressing rule of law backsliding in the EU

By Suzanne Rowe

Article 2 of the TEU states that the EU is “founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities”. It is considered that these values are common to all Member States and that any erosion of them threatens the very functioning of the Union itself (Lane Scheppele and Kelemen, 2020).

Over the last decade, the European Union has seen significant rule of law backsliding in several Member States, most notably Hungary and Poland, where concerns have been raised about the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and other rule of law issues. In this blog, it will be argued that the mechanisms used to date in attempting to deal with these matters have been largely ineffective and why the addition of rule of law conditionality is therefore crucial in addressing the slide in core EU values.

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Interest Groups: Some say donations others say bribes – What is the money really for?

By Nicola Mc Grath

The European Parliament (EP) has been able to amend legislation since the entry into force of the Single European Act in July 1987, thereby incorporating certain interests and policy aims in the decision making process. Since 2008, the European Union’s (EU) political parties and foundations can receive private financial donations as a part of their annual budget (Katsaitis, 2018). A myriad of actors across Europe are engaged in lobbying activities, looking to influence and inform public decision-making. This can become a very dangerous game when the powerful influence over policy making falls into the wrong hands – using the example of Germanys car industry, I will show how this rings true. The recent surge in lobbying activities can be connected to the growing role of the EU as a policy maker, expanding their regulatory competence in areas that are of interest to corporations, businesses and individuals. It is often argued that tighter regulations on interest groups and lobbying will cripple industries or limit the abilities of politicians to do their job – but I do not believe this to be the case.

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How is public health expenditure hindering Albania from EU accession?

By Dovile Milisauskaite

Since the fall of its communist regime in 1990, the Balkan nation of Albania has worked toward a clear goal: European integration. The country, which was isolated economically and politically from the rest of the world just 20 years ago, has been an official candidate for accession to the European Union since 2014. Albania has successfully implemented policies aligned with the EU acquis, such as the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in 2006. This agreement approximated Albanian legislation to that of the EU and allowed for the country’s economy to integrate into the EU single market. It also ensured democracy and rights for all, at least by law (Panagiotou, 2011).However, as Albania nears its first Inter-governmental Conference, the European Commission has highlighted several areas of policy in need of reform. This essay serves toanalyseone of these areas: public health, with specific attention to its expenditure (European Commission, 2020).

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The One that got away? How Poland is sidelining the EU’s anti-authoritarianism measures.

By Ekaterina Tarasova

Since the accession of the Law and Justice party (PiS) in 2015, Poland has been engaged in democratic backsliding – a process defined as the deliberate undermining of liberal democratic values and the system of checks and balances by the domestic elite in order to achieve its long-term hegemony (Pech and Scheppele, 2017). In theory, Poland as an EU member is supposed to uphold the liberal and democratic values of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) – so how, despite EU intervention, can Poland continue to undermine the core values of the Union domestically? The answer lies mainly in the difficulty that the EU experiences in using the limited mechanisms it has to counteract democratic backsliding, especially Article 7 of the TEU, which focuses on intervention when Article 2 (the article that outlines the values of the EU) of the TEU is repeatedly breached (Meijer and van der Veer, 2019). The key elements that make it possible for Poland to continue the process of democratic backsliding are the unanimity required for triggering Article 7 (Meijer and van der Veer, 2019), the ‘procrastination’ of the European Commission through the rule of law framework (Pech and Scheppele, 2017), the ‘authoritarian equilibrium’ that the EU is in (Kelemen, 2020) and the ‘blame game with Brussels’ that Poland plays (Schlipphak and Treib, 2017).

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The EU and Upholding Human Rights: Are Trade Deal Stipulations Enough?

By Elena Devereux

With a considerable rise in the social awareness of human rights issues/violations globally, many have alerted attention to how international organizations such as the EU use their power to aid or tackle these situations. Whilst some argue that the EU’s use of trade deals and specific stipulations relating to human rights is an effective means of tackling these situations(Hafner-Burton, 2011), I will argue that this is not necessarily always the case. Alternatively, I argue that if fully committed to, using trade deals could be extremely successful for the Union, though currently they are not displaying enough dedication to upholding and insisting on these stipulations. In this blog post I will highlight where the EU has failed at enforcing human rights in trade agreements, specifically in Vietnam and where they have the potential to greatly improve on their approach.

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The Copenhagen Criteria: Coping with Integration?

By Isabella Newton

With the steep decline of democracy in Poland and Hungary, the effectiveness of the Copenhagen Criteria at ensuring integration has been called into question. Does the Criteria ensure integration as it did in the case of Croatia or has it failed as occurred in Poland? In this blog post, it will firstly be argued that integration through the Copenhagen Criteria has been successful for some states however in retrospect its inherent vagueness and lack of enforcement mechanism has been its undoing.

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The Commission’s ‘one stop shop’ of Corporate Tax Harmonisation – Why the CCCTB Proposals are desirable for EU Integration.

By Cara Mooney

The Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), first introduced in 2011 and relaunched in 2016 is an attempt by the Commission to harmonise corporate taxation within the EU, to provide a sort of ‘one stop shop’ if you will. The Lisbon Goals, declared in March 2000 aimed for the European Union to become the “most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world” and the Commission recognises that such a goal cannot be achieved without reform of corporate taxation (McLure, 2008). The CCCTB is a favourable proposal as not only does it provide greater efficiency for both multinational companies (MNCs) and Member States alike, it also decreases the likelihood of revenue loss to tax havens, or as some like to call it; ‘Moneyland’ (Bullough, 2018). Yet it hasn’t all been smooth sailing as Ireland has taken a strong dislike to the Commission’s proposals. If reform in corporate taxation is a necessary objective for better integration, it might be time for the Commission to go back to the drawing board.

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Why PESCO Membership Does not Threaten Irelands Policy of Military Neutrality

By Alan Kelly

Many commentators have argued that Irish participation in PESCO amounts to de-facto NATO membership, and marks an end to our traditional policy of Military Neutrality. This is not the case. This blogpost will show that PESCO membership falls squarely within the Irish definition of military neutrality. It will assess exactly what PESCO membership means for Ireland, before examining the arguments of those opposed to Irish participation. This blogpost will conclude that these arguments are unfounded, and that PESCO membership presents numerous opportunities for Ireland. This blogpost will also assess the consequences of non-membership of PESCO and will conclude that this would be damaging to Irelands international reputation.

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Terrorism and the Internet – A Step Towards Greater Integration to Prevent a ‘Second Wave’ of Terrorism

By Cathal Keane

Terrorism is inherently a transnational phenomenon. Consequentially, acts of terrorism in Europe require a coordinated response from EU member states. With significant inflows of returning jihadists to Europe in recent times, there is a new sense of urgency for member states to increase cooperation and strive for greater integration in the area of counter-terrorism. The European Commission’s September 2018 proposal to combat terrorist content on the internet represents a significant step towards curbing what Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock has dubbed a ‘second wave’ of terrorism in Europe (Willsher, 2018).

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Are the re-emergence of EU/U.S. trade talks a sign that trade remains the EU’s foremost priority?

By Eva McCarthy

With the discussion of a trade deal between the EU and the U.S. back on the table, the EU faces a crucial decision about whether to prioritise its environmental obligations or future impacts on trade. The EU has stated that it cannot trade with a country outside of the Paris Agreement. But if one of the largest trading markets pulls out of the Paris Agreement and threatens to increase tariffs on EU imports, the EU’s agenda to uphold the Paris Agreement will be seriously tested.

The controversial free trade deal between the EU and the U.S., known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), has already been years in development but was halted by protests from left leaning members of the European Parliament and the public (Keating, 2018). Protestors said that a trade agreement with the U.S. would require the EU to lower its environmental, health and safety standards to American levels (Keating, 2018).  In 2015 the EU signed the legally binding Paris Agreement, with the goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (European Commission, 2018). The Trump administration has threatened to withdraw from this agreement, in November 2020, when the treaty rules allow (Keating, 2018).

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