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Recent illiberal turns in Hungary and Romania have prompted the question what, if anything, the EU could and should do to protect liberal democracy within Member States. The article discusses four principled concerns about democracy-saving EU interventions in Member States: that an institution which is itself largely undemocratic cannot credibly protect democracy; that there are in fact no common European standards which could be used to determine whether a Member State is departing from a shared European understanding of democracy; that interventions are per se illiberal; and, finally, that only small States will be subject to intervention, a form of EU hypocrisy which delegitimizes Brussels both in the States concerned and possibly across the EU as a whole. The article counters all these concerns and argues that the problem with intervention is not to be found at a theoretical level, but on a practical plane: as of now, the EU lacks a tool kit to intervene effectively in Member States; whatever it has recently used by way of sticks and carrots seems arbitrary or opportunistic. The article concludes by proposing a number of remedies for this situation.


Issue Date: 
April 2013
Volume: 
24
Issue: 
2
Page Numbers: 
138-149

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