UCL Faculty of Laws


The Rule of Law in the European Union (LAWS0371)

This module provides an account of the central role of the rule of law in the operation of the European Union. It shows students how judicial enforcement of EU law was central to the integration process (most notably through the seminal literature on integration through law) then assesses the challenges to ensuring the protection of the rule of law in the contemporary EU. It will assess the political means to ensure the rule of law (Article 7 proceedings, conditionality in EU spending) and judicial methods (withdrawal of mutual recognition, Court of Justice cases on judicial independence. It will also get students to reflect more widely on what the current issues around the rule of law tell us about the future of the European Union and the failure of the ‘end of history’ world view predominant in the 1990s.

Module Syllabus

  1. What is the rule of law? 

  1. The rule of law and European integration 

  1. The sources of the crisis 

  1. Case Study I: Hungary and Judicial Independence 

  1. Case Study II: Judicial Independence in Poland 

  1. Case Study III: Academic and Civil Society in Hungary 

  1. Assessing the limits of judicial protection. 

  1. Political Tools I: Article 7  

  1. Political Tools II: Financial Penalties 

  1. European Union, teleology and living with the end of the end of history.

Recommended Materials

Module reading lists and other materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have selected the course on enrolment. 

Preliminary Reading

K. Alter Establishing the Supremacy of European Law: The Making of an International Rule of Law in Europe, Oxford University Press, 2001 

T. Bingham The Rule of Law Allen Lane, 2010. 

M. Blauberger and R. D. Keleman “Can courts rescue national democracy? Judicial Safeguards against democratic backsliding in the EU” 24(3) (2017) Journal of European Public Policy 1-16 

Edward Luce The Retreat of Western Liberalism Little Brown, 2017. 

Peter Mair Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy Verso, 2013 

R. McCrea ‘Forward or Back: The Future of European Integration and the Impossibility of the Status Quo’ 23(1) European Law Journal (2017) 66-93.

Key Information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 Credits (225 learning hours)
Other Teachers:


Teaching Delivery:10 x 2-hour weekly lectures, Term 2
Who may enrol:Any UCL Master’s student subject to the pre-requisites below. 
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:Specialism TBD
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay  
Final Assessment:Controlled Condition Exam (100%)