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Member States’ Constitutional Crises and

Deficiencies in EU’s Implementation of

the Copenhagen Political Criteria

Yung-Djong Shaw

Institutum Iurisprudentiae, Academia Sinica

No. 128, Sec. 2, Academia Rd., Taipei 11529, Taiwan



Accession negotiations have contributed significantly to the Euro-

peanization of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and economic

models in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. However, re-

cent constitutional crises in Central and Eastern European countries

demonstrate that the Copenhagen Criteria have failed to ensure that all

candidate states have reached the required degree of stability in their

constitutional systems before accession. Why did the EU fail to screen

out those applicants that as yet lacked sufficiently strong democratic

institutions, despite the great efforts made during the screening process?

By clarifying the interaction between the EU value order and the con-

stitutional orders of the Member States, revisiting the evolution of the

EU value-protecting mechanism, and analyzing the socio-political and

economic factors behind the constitutional crises in Hungary and Po-

land, this paper argues that the overhasty pace of the accession negoti-

ations, and the fact that the current value-protecting mechanism was

unable to sufficiently empower civil society in the candidate states, are

important reasons for the weakness of the current mechanism.

Key Words


Copenhagen Criteria, constitutional crisis, EU democracy,

rule of law in the EU, EU human rights