Europe’s Rule-of-Law Crisis

BRUSSELS – From the rubble of two world wars, European countries came together to launch what would become the world’s largest experiment in unification and cooperative, shared sovereignty. But, despite its impressive achievements over the decades, the European project now risks disintegration.

An unresolved financial crisis, a refugee crisis, a deteriorating security environment, and a stalled integration process have created throughout Europe a toxic, unstable political environment in which populism and nationalism thrive. Perhaps the clearest manifestation of this is the erosion of the rule of law in the European Union.

Two EU members in particular, Hungary and Poland, are now jeopardizing hard-won European democratic norms – and thus undermining the very purpose of European integration.

In Hungary, liberal-democratic values have come under systematic attack from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government. Since his return to the premiership in 2010, Orbán has committed Hungary to an authoritarian nationalist path, and he has exploited the refugee crisis to cement a “siege mentality” that helps him sustain popular support.