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Rule of law: Why is it key to our democracies?


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The European Union is based on a set of shared values. Some of these values seem straightforward, such as freedom of speech. Some of them are a little more abstract, such as ‘rule of law’. Broadly speaking, rule of law is a governance principle that requires all persons, private entities and public institutions such as governments to act in accordance with the law. These laws must be enacted publicly, must be consistent with human rights and democratic values, and must be beholden to the scrutiny of independent and impartial courts.

Globally, the EU is recognised as having a very high rule of law standard. The new EU budget includes a rule of law clause to make sure that its Member States meet this standard. This ‘rule of law conditionality’ will make it possible to suspend payments from the EU budget to Member States that do not respect the rule of law.

  • How does the rule of law influence your life as an EU citizen?
  • How can young people help ensure that the rule of law is respected?
  • What do you think are the main challenges of implementing this kind of conditionality?

The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has selected some of its resources to provide young people like you with background information and insights linked to the topic above.

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29 January 2021
Rule of Law is one of the key pillars of our democracy and it’s one of the values we all share as Europeans, one of the things we call “european values”.
I support it and I am glad it exists. By respecting the Rule of Law, the citizens, their rights and wills are also being respected. We live in a democracy where no one is above the Law. Absolutely no man is more powerful than the Law we all abide.
As someone who has happened to study Portuguese and European Law I am familiarised with it, however not everyone is. In my opinion everyone should know at least basic National and European law. We should all know the laws that are enforced on us, although it is impossible for a common citizen to know every single law by heart we should have an idea on how our judicial system works and we should be familiarised with the most common laws.
Schools should be in charge of teaching basic law to their pupils but if our school doesn’t teach us law we shouldn’t cross our arms and wait for it to change. We need to be pragmatic and proactive and be the change we want to see in the world. After all Law protects us all.