The rule of law and the Eastern enlargement of the EU
This thesis examines and analyses the 'rule of law' concept and its importance to the enlargement of the European Union to include Central and Eastern European countries. The main focus of the thesis, revolves around the argument that the differences in conception of the rule of law within the European Union (both member states and institutions), is problematic to further transition and development of this important principle in Central and Eastern European countries seeking EU membership. The rule of law has been identified by the EU as a fundamental principle and criteria with regard to the current enlargement process. In addition to this, the European Union has not defined what it means by 'rule of law' and has instead stated its belief that new members will develop their own 'brand' of rule of law and democracy that takes into account individual cultures, histories and experiences. Despite such declarations, the EU have made suggestions for the reform or formation of particular institutions and procedures within prospective member states, that suggest particular understandings of what the rule of law is and stands for. This conflicting message to prospective members has left many of them in the situation where they are making changes to their institutions and practices so as to mirror 'Western European' countries, but without the knowledge of how to utilise such things. The situation is also potentially problematic for the European Union, as it calls into question its own practices relating to reform and enlargement, such as how does the EU decide whether prospective member states have met the criteria of having established the rule of law, when there is no formal consensus on what establishing the rule of law entails or how the principle is defined.