The Entanglement between Democracy and the Rule of Law

In conflating democracy with rule of law, EU Rule of Law policy is primarily concerned with institutional characteristics, but not with positive conditions and opportunity structures for civil society nor for citizen engagement. It is of great importance to not consider the rule of law in a broader sense of a ‘democratic rule of law’ (O’Donnell 2004). A democratic rule of law includes concern with the formal functioning of institutions in terms of the rule of law, but is equally focussed on forms of accountability and capacities of engagement of a societal kind. The full recognition of citizens as ‘agents’, and also a ‘co-owners’ of the institutions, requires extensive attention to societal conditions, opportunities, and resources. There is an unbalanced attention for compliance with relevant norms and laws in EU member states to EU standards but much less attention for vertical relational dimensions between political and juridical institutions and wider society.