Signalling in European Rule of Law Cases: Hungary and Poland as Case Studies
iCourts Working Paper Series No. 336, 2023
48 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2023
Date Written: October 9, 2023
The paper explores the feedback loop between Hungary and Poland’s differing compliance signals conveyed in the process of European rule of law enforcement and the responses to these signals by the four key international actors in this respect, namely the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights as judicial organs and the European Commission and the Committee of Ministers as organs supervising compliance. After 2015 when Poland joined Hungary and became the European Union’s second illiberal regime, the highest watchdog mechanisms in Europe had to clarify their positions with respect to the rule of law. The institutions jointly condemned its deterioration in both states, but their endeavour – as evident from the quantity and the severity of measures imposed upon Poland, but not Hungary – appears inconsistent, offering prospects of only limited success. Building on the signalling theory from international relations, the paper argues that this difference in treatment of the two states pertains to Hungary and Poland’s differing expressions of commitment to comply with rule-of-law-related rulings as reflected in different signals the two states convey in the process of supervision. In this respect, Hungary’s signalled conciliatory attitude compared to Poland’s overt defiance places the state in a better position as it invites more deference from the European institutions. Using Hungary as an example, the paper concludes that conveying conciliatory signals in the process of compliance may be used by states as an effective tool to impact the course and, ultimately, the success of rule of law enforcement.
Keywords: rule of law, European Court of Human Rights, Court of Justice of the European Union, Poland, Hungary, compliance, signalling theory
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