This paper traces the initially very narrow framing of European Court of Justice (ECJ) cases regarding democratic backsliding in Hungary and Poland and the incremental development of the jurisprudential line on judicial independence and mutual trust. While the political bodies have debated the democratic backsliding in Hungary and Poland with varied levels of support, the Court has addressed the problem only indirectly. Up until November 2018, the Court has ruled exclusively on violations of specific norms of EU secondary law with regard to both countries, many of them based on internal market rationales. In order to uncover how the Court has indirectly addressed the protection of democratic values, a contextual analysis of the infringement proceedings brought against Hungary and Poland is warranted. At a first glance, these proceedings are about specific violations of EU directives or market freedoms. A contextual analysis, however, reveals how politically salient they have been.
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