Rule of law is a persistent problem in Central Eastern and Southern EU member states. This report addresses whether the relevance of building European networks is being explored as a means of helping national institutions to become resilient.
The EU is frantically searching for new instruments to ensure that member states adhere to its rule of law ambitions. Some form of national capacity building, amongst a whole range of other instruments, has been on the agenda for a long time. However, little attention has been devoted to building the necessary European networks. Such networks are important to institutionalise the required professional norms and values across the member states.
Countries need to have functioning rule of law institutions so that checks and balances are part of the national landscapes. These national institutions (agencies) need to be embedded in the European multilevel system of checks and balances to given them an EU context and backing. The EU now needs to move beyond naming and shaming instruments and to start building dedicated EU networks (creating independent agencies at national and EU level and setting up inspections of national agencies).
The network‑building approach has been successful in other EU policies; now is the time to apply it to rule of law. This requires the unpacking of rule of law so that it is clear which national institutions are involved.