The capacity of the European Commission to protect the fundamental values of the European Union: The issue of rule of law in Poland 2015-2018
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Although European Union has been described as a union based on values, recent years have seen the principles of democracy and rule of law being challenged in some of the member states. For the first time, the European Commission has proposed to declare a risk of a breach of the fundamental values of the European Union in a member state, addressing rule of law in Poland. If the value based union is to be maintained, the issue of how to ensure respect for the common values post-accession, has to be addressed. The aim of this research is to study the capacity of the European Commission to ensure the respect of the fundamental values of the European Union in its member states. A qualitative case study on the issue of rule of law in Poland between 2015 and 2018, is carried out since it has created a precedent. The author uses document analysis to look at the steps taken by the Commission to protect the principle of rule of law and the impact on Poland. The approach of Europeanisation is applied to analyse the strategy and obstacles in ensuring compliance. The results confirm the hypothesis as the relative power of the Commission decreases post-accession. The Commission has attempted to engage in dialogue and has applied negative conditionality on Poland but the situation has deteriorated. The persuasion power of the Commission is decreased by low sense of identity, legitimacy and credibility. Poland has argued the Commission has no right to intervene and the process is politically motivated. There are no benefits to be gained from compliance and the costs on Poland are not high enough because the credibility of sanctions is low. Based on the analysis, budgetary measures could be a way to increase the influence of the Commission. However, capacity building has to consider maintaining the unity of the European Union and preventing potential backlashes.
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