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Eva Grosfeld and Armin Cuyvers speak at UACES Conference on empirical approaches to the rule of law

On 4 September, Eva Grosfeld and Armin Cuyvers presented at the UACES Annual Conference in Belfast in a Themed Track on empirical approaches to the rule of law. Their contribution to the panel focused on the approach of the Court of Justice to the rule of law and how this approach affects citizens’ attitudes towards the EU.

An analysis of the Court’s case law showed that in order to protect the rule of law principles, which are violated by some Member States, the Court emphasises that EU law always trumps national law. It also argues that the rule of law is a common value and can therefore not threaten the national identities of the Member States. This justifies a uniform definition of the rule of law.

Empirical analyses partially confirmed this assumption, showing that the rule of law is indeed a widely endorsed value among EU citizens, regardless of their political preferences and moral concerns. However, people with a more conservative ideology find the protection of their national identity equally if not even more important than the rule of law. They may experience the primacy of EU law as a threat to their national identity.

Integrating these perspectives, Armin and Eva discussed what this may mean for the case law of the Court of Justice. Both legal and social psychological analyses confirm that the rule of law is an important common value. But the legitimating potential of this common value may be undermined when citizens see it as an attack on their national identity. Perhaps, the Court should consider ways to protect the rule of law while also recognising that a large group of citizens need emotional protection of their national identity.

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