Threats to the Rule of Law in the European Union: Court of Justice to the rescue (?)

The landmark judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the so-called “Portuguese judges case” (C-64/16) marked the EU’s fresh approach to the Rule of Law crisis in some of its Member States, including Poland, Hungary and Romania. Since then, multiple infringement actions and requests for preliminary ruling have been lodged with the Court — in response to which the highest judicial body in the EU has further refined the meaning and the scope of the Rule of Law. Aiming to preserve the primacy, unity and effectiveness of EU law, the Luxembourg court has simultaneously empowered domestic judiciaries with a set of tools to preserve the Rule of Law at the national level — specifically to deal with threats to judicial independence and impartiality. In contrast, both the subject-matter of cases before the Court, particularly referrals from national courts, and its inability to act promptly in key cases make the said “rescue” less effective in comparison to initial expectations.