Europeanization and the Rule of Law: Towards a Pathological Turn

Recent scholarship has exposed the “EU’s pathological power”, which has undermined the creation of the rule of law in South Eastern Europe (SEE) and beyond. This paper discusses the “pathological turn” in Europeanization studies by identifying and providing evidence for several “pathologies of Europeanization”, i.e. legal and political deficiencies related to rule of law reform, such as legal instability, lack of generality and enforcement, and increased politicization. These pathologies result, among others, from a deficient approach of the EU to rule of law promotion and assessment. In particular, the author highlights three main fundamental problems of Europeanization in the area of the rule of law: 1) valuing quantity over quality; 2) partisan empowerment of domestic change agents; and 3) biased assessment of the rule of law. These problematic issues are further clarified on selected country examples of reform failure from SEE and the 2012 “rule of law crisis” in Romania. It is argued that given the EU’s inability to objectively assess and effectively promote the rule of law, the EU should either abstain from evaluating rule of law or radically revise its approach and methodology, for instance by following the policy advice provided in this paper.