The EU’s ‘actions-without-sanctions’? The politics of the rule of law crisis in many Europes
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This paper examines the European Union (EU)’s actions regarding the rule of law (RoL) crisis in Hungary and Poland. As alignment among three EU institutions–European Parliament, European Commission and European Council–is required for the enforcement of the punitive measures under Article 7 of the Treaty on EU, existing studies, to a great extent, rely on the conflict between the intergovernmental and supranational levels to account for the EU’s failure to sanction the RoL offenders. This article argues that EU’s failure to implement Article 7 cannot be explained by only one dimension of the internal power struggle in the EU. By exploring the complex politics underlying the RoL crisis, this article reveals four competing–Thin, Thick, Parochial and Global–visions of Europe supported by various EU institutions, member states, and extra-EU actors. Based on the EU’s official documents and media reports from the member states (more notable from Hungary since 2010 and Poland after 2015), the article suggests that cooperation and conflict between Thin, Thick, Parochial and Global Europe can better explain the ‘EU’s actions without sanctions’ approach towards the RoL crisis which has paradoxically provoked further public support for the RoL offenders instead of weakening them. © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.