How just is the EU, or: is there a ‘new’ European deficit?

von Dimitry Kochenov

Let us face it: the EU affects the lives of many people in ways they perceive as profoundly unjust. Lives are dramatically affected by the policies of austerity, widely understood to be EU-imposed. With the Court of Justice appearing to stand for its own authority and EU autonomy at any cost; with migrants attempting to reach fortress Europe and drowning en masse as the EU cuts back its rescue services; and with economic inequalities in the Member States reaching new heights, could it be that there is a justice deficit in Europe, exacerbated by the European Union? It has never been made abundantly clear whether the achievement of justice is among the EU’s objectives, thus leading to a sub-optimal legal-political reality. There is an urgent need to address the question of justice openly and without reservation, and not to permit nationalists and Eurosceptics to monopolize this debate.

It would not be unfair to say that questions of justice and injustice in the EU context have, despite some notable exceptions, received inadequate attention from political and institutional actors and only rarely been the subject of sustained academic analysis. The fact that the most frequent use of the word justice in the EU context is as part of ‘Area of Freedom Security and Justice’ reflects this neglect, and falls far short of any awareness on the part of the EU of the potential injustices that can be caused by its very design as well as its operation. The negative consequences of this omission for the EU’s legitimacy as well as the general persuasiveness of its constitutional claim are far-reaching. For the EU to survive the justice test, it seems indispensable to start from the premise that the EU over time has emerged as a locus of justice and injustice ...

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