Enforcing the Value of Democracy in EU Law: Changing a Union Brick-by-Brick

This paper analyses several ways in which democracy as a core value of the EU can be enforced against its Member States. Following the crisis of democratic backsliding in several Member States, no legal action has been taken on the basis of a breach of democracy or democratic principles. A possible explanation is that violations of Article 2 TEU are subject to a specific enforcement procedure, which is notoriously hard to trigger. Furthermore, since Article 2 TEU refers to abstract values, it is frequently asserted that values such as ‘democracy’ cannot be legally enforced. This paper, however, claims that the value of democracy has a sufficiently clear core meaning in EU law to be legally enforceable. Secondly, this paper claims that EU law includes several centralized and decentralized enforcement mechanisms beyond Article 7 TEU to enforce democratic principles. Lack of enforcement of democracy against Member States, therefore, is mostly a political choice, not a legal requirement.