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The Challenge of Enforcing Rule of Law in International Organizations: Winning the Public and Resisting Populist Attacks [CHARLIO]

Full Title

The Challenge of Enforcing Rule of Law in International Organizations: Winning the Public and Resisting Populist Attacks [CHARLIO]

Project description

Growing public backlash against international organizations (IOs) (i.a. Copelovitch & Pevehouse 2019) and attacks of national political elites on the rule of law increasingly challenge governance by IOs. Public opposition to IOs is fueled by populist attacks on the liberal world order (Börzel & Zürn 2021) and the rule of law. When international organizations seek to enforce the rule of law at the national level, they risk provoking hostile reactions of citizens and fueling public opposition to the IOs themselves. As several IOs have the rule of law at their core (the EU, the Council of Europe, and, more globally, the ICC, IMF, AU and MERCORSUR), it has become pressing to establish what instruments and strategies they could employ in order to effectively safeguard the rule of law at the national level without eroding their own legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. Hence, it is important to find a solution whereas IOs can successfully enforce compliance with rule of law standards, while at the same time preserving citizen trust and support – a goal this project will contribute to.

Addressing these issues, the primary research question that this project is: How can international organizations safeguard the rule of law without provoking public backlash? In this project, we will develop theoretical arguments about how the acceptance of enforcement actions crucially depends on the relevance of procedural fairness, transparency and ideational consistency between the new norms and existing legal rules, and how it is possibly moderated by how much people (a) already trust the international organizations and (b) identify exclusively with their own country. The influence of these moderating factors is hypothesized to be activated to a greater extent for citizens of countries that are likely targets of rule of law related enforcement actions. These hypotheses will be tested using an experimental survey on the enforcement of rule of law by the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union fielded in Poland: a country that is a possible target of rule of law enforcement actions.

The findings of the project will contribute to our understanding of the conditions that make enforcement actions related to the rule of law legitimate and acceptable in the eyes of European citizens.

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