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Leonid Bershidsky

The EU Is Winning Its Rule-of-Law Challenges

The attention of one European leader in particular has limited the ability of Hungary, Poland and Romania to destroy courts’ independence.

The EU flag flies at Hungary’s courts too.

The EU flag flies at Hungary’s courts too.

Photographer: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union is often accused of being powerless to deal with renegade member states that flout its declared principles. But the bloc’s recent success in resisting judicial reforms in eastern European countries, meant to increase ruling parties’ control over the courts, tells a different story.

The judicial reforms are key to the establishment of illiberal regimes in eastern European countries. In recent years they have challenged the EU’s key values, tiring of their wealthier neighbors’ lectures on how to run their affairs. The EU was slow to get serious about these efforts, and indeed had limited tools to stop them. But it has gotten its act together recently, forcing Romania and Hungary to drop onerous plans.