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Rule of law

The rule of law is enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union as one of the common values for all EU Member States. Under the rule of law, all public powers always act within the constraints set out by law, in accordance with the values of democracy and fundamental rights, and under the control of independent and impartial courts. Respect for the rule of law is essential for the very functioning of the EU: for the effective application of EU law, for the proper functioning of the internal market, for maintaining an investment-friendly environment and for mutual trust.

The EU has developed a number of different instruments to promote and uphold the rule of law. The EU’s rule-of-law policy approach rests on three pillars:

  • the promotion of a rule-of-law culture in the EU, which involves deepening common work to spread understanding of the rule of law in Europe;
  • the prevention of rule-of-law problems where they emerge in a Member State, having the capacity to intervene at an early stage and avoiding the risk of escalation, including in particular the European Rule of Law Mechanism, with the annual Rule of Law Report at its centre;
  • the ability to mount an effective response when a problem of sufficient significance has been identified in a Member State, including the procedure under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union.

Along with having a functional democracy and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, the rule of law is also one of the political criteria that countries wishing to join the EU have to meet.