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PhD defence

The EU’s Conceptualisation of the Rule of Law in its External Relations: Case Studies on Development Cooperation and Enlargement

Wednesday 26 June 2019
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof. C.A.P. Hillion
  • Prof. R.C. Tobler


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.


For the European Union, the rule of law is a multifaceted notion of ‘primordial importance’. It is a foundational value and a guiding principle for the Union’s external action in general. The concept plays a central role both within the EU and in its external policy. For the Union, respect for the rule of law is an essential condition not only for peace and stability in the consolidation and support of democracy, but also for conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction. Strengthening the rule of law lies at the heart of the enlargement process and the Stabilisation and Association Process, and its consolidation is vital for sustainable development.

However, what is meant by the term ‘rule of law’ in the EU’s external policy? The thesis tackles the largely unexplored question of the EU’s conceptualisation of the rule of law in its external relations, with a particular focus on development cooperation and enlargement. Although the EU’s commitment to the rule of law is strong and often repeated, the relevant concept remains nebulous. On the basis of a detailed analysis of two key EU external policy areas, the main argument advanced is that the Union has adopted a mostly ‘institutional’ approach to the concept by focussing largely on judicial reform. By testing the relevant practice against the background of the constitutional traditions of the Member States and legal theory, the thesis attests to the significance of developing a more comprehensive approach to the rule of law in EU external relations.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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