The Rule of Law as a Constitutional Principle of the European Union

The rule of law is one amongst a number of principles that are together regarded as under-girding the EU polity and common to the EU Member States. This paper first asserts that the rule of law can be accurately described as a “common principle.” A series of “shared traits” are outlined with respect to the three dominant constitutional traditions in Europe (England, Germany and France) and it is argued that these shared traits are sufficiently robust to amount to an identifiable common denominator. The meaning, scope of application and normative impact of the rule of law in the EU’s constitutional framework is then explored in light of these shared traits. An attempt at distinguishing between the conventional and distinctive features of the EU rule of law is made. This paper suggests that similarly to national experiences, the EU rule of law has progressively and rightfully become a dominant organizational paradigm, a multifaceted legal principle with formal and substantive elements which nonetheless lacks “full” justiciability. However, the EU rule of law also presents distinctive features which reflect the EU’s original constitutional nature.