Unchecked and Off-Balance: Can the EU institutional structure resist rule of law backsliding?

The EU claims its foundation is based on values common to its Member States including the rule of law. Accession to the EU requires the realisation of these values to a high standard, and it was assumed that EU membership would ensure the greater development of these values. However, in Member States including Hungary and Poland, ruling political parties have deformed the democratic voice to become a tool of manipulation. Member States’ national authorities now fracture between those arguing for the place of the EU in resisting this autocratic shift, and those considering national sovereignty to exclude it. This paper argues that while the authority and limitations of EU action are contentious, EU (non)intervention in backsliding Member States will continue to be characterised by national authorities as either the illegitimate intervention of an external power, or the permissive enabling of autocratic regimes within the EU, which will only result in the fracturing of the EU.