A Stress Test for Europe’s Judiciaries

  • Eirik HolmøyvikEmail author
  • Anne Sanders
Part of the European Yearbook of Constitutional Law book series (EYCL, volume 1)


The rule of law, judicial independence and separation of powers are values guaranteed in constitutions of member states of the Council of Europe. Nevertheless, in recent years, a number of challenges to these accepted values have emerged in different countries all over Europe. The legal responses from European institutions against systemic rule of law threats has yet to prove effective. In this chapter we propose a national approach to protect European rule of law standards. To facilitate this process, we suggest stress-testing Europe’s judiciaries. This should be done by means of structured thought experiments in which the likely effects of adverse developments (such as the ones to be witnessed in some European countries today) should be predicted to identify and remedy weak points in the constitutional and legal framework.


Council of Europe judicial independence rule of law separation of powers stress test for judicial systems 


  1. Bartole S (2017) Comparative Constitutional Law. An Indispensable Tool for the Creation of Transnational Law. European Constitutional Law Review 13:601–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bobek M, Kosar D (2015) Global Solutions, Local Damages. A Critical Study in Judicial Councils in Central and Eastern Europe. German Law Journal 15(7):1257–1292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Breyer S (2010) Making Our Democracy Work, Vintage Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Buquicchio G, Granata-Menghini S (2013) The Venice Commission Twenty Years on. Challenge met but New Challenges ahead. In: van Roosmalen M et al (eds) Fundamental Rights and Principles: Liber amicorum Pieter van Dijk. Intersentia Publishing, Cambridge, pp 241–254Google Scholar
  5. Černič J L, Avbelj M (2018) The Special Issue of the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law on the Crisis of Constitutional Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law 10:1–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Closa C, Kochenov D, Weiler JHH (2014/2015) Reinforcing Rule of Law Oversight in the European Union. EUI Working Paper, RSCASGoogle Scholar
  7. Craig P (2017) Transnational Constitution-Making: The Contribution of the Venice Commission on Law and Democracy. UC Irvine Journal of International, Transnational and Comparative Law 2:57–85Google Scholar
  8. Di Federico G (2012) Judicial Accountability and Conduct: An Overview. In: Seibert-Fohr A (ed) Judicial Independence in Transition, Springer, Heidelberg, pp 87–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Elkins Z (2010) Diffusion and the Constitutionalization of Europe. Comparative Political Studies 43:969–999CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elster J (1995) Forces and Mechanisms in the Constitution-Making Process. Duke Law Journal 45:364–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Engstad N A, Froseth A, Tonder B (eds) (2014) The Independence of Judges. Eleven International Publishing, The HagueGoogle Scholar
  12. Follesdal A (2017) Independent yet Accountable: Stress Test Lessons for the European Court of Human Rights. Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 24:484–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gardbaum S (2014) Separation of Powers and the Growths of Judicial Review in Established Democracies (or Why Has the Model of Legislative Supremacy Mostly Been Withdrawn From Sale?). American Journal of Comparative Law 62:613–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gärditz K F (2018) Eine Verfassung gegen Krisen. LTO, Accessed 1 March 2019
  15. Gee G, Hazell R, Malleson K, O’Brian P (2015) The Politics of Judicial Independence in the UK’s Changing Constitution. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Geithner T F (2014) Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises. Broadway Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Ginsburg T, Melton J (2014) Does De Jure Judicial Independence Really Matter. Journal of Law and Courts 2:187–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greer S, Williams AT (2009) Human Rights and the Council of Europe and the EU – Towards ‘individual’, ‘constitutional’ or ‘institutional’ justice? European Law Journal 15:462–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grimm D (2016) Constitutionalism: Past, Present, and Future. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hillgruber C (2017) Article 97. In: Maunz Th, Dürig G (eds) Grundgesetz Kommentar, CH Beck, MunichGoogle Scholar
  21. Holmøyvik E, Sanders A (2017) Stress Test for Europe’s Judiciaries. Verfassungsblog, Accessed 1 March 2019
  22. Jackson V (2012) In: Seibert-Fohr A (ed) Judicial Independence in Transition. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 19–86Google Scholar
  23. Johnson A, Radu B (2013) The Effect of EU Anti-Corruption Measures on the Romanian Judiciary. International Journal for Court Administration 5:34–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kiener R (2001) Richterliche Unabhängigkeit. Stämpfli Verlag, BernGoogle Scholar
  25. Kochenov D (2015) Biting Intergovernmentalism: The Case for the Reinvention of Article 259 TFEU to Make it a viable Rule of Law Enforcement Tool. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law 7:153–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kochenov D (2016) The Missing EU Rule of Law? In: Closa C, Kochenov D (eds) Reinforcing Rule of Law Oversight in the European Union. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge pp 290–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kosar D (2018) Beyond Judicial Councils: Forms, Rationales and Impact of Judicial Self-Governance in Europe. German Law Journal 7:1567–1612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levitsky S, Ziblat D (2018) How democracies die. Broadway Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Luhmann N (1983) Legitimation durch Verfahren. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  30. Macdonald R, Kong H (2012) Judicial Independence as a Constitutional Virtue. In: Rosenfeld M, Sajó A (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law. Oxford University Press, Oxford pp 831–858Google Scholar
  31. Melton J, Ginsburg T (2014) Does De Jure Judicial Independence Really Matter? A Reevaluation of Explanations for Judicial Independence. Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics, Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics, University of Chicago Law SchoolGoogle Scholar
  32. Meyer U (2019) Grundvoraussetzungen richterlicher Tätigkeit. Zeitschrift des Bernischen Juristenvereins 155: 217–223Google Scholar
  33. Moretti M, Stolz S, Swinburne M (2008) Stress-testing at the IMF. IMF Working Paper 08/206. Accessed 1 March 2019
  34. Ovádek, M (2018) Drama or Serenity? Upcoming Judicial Appointments at the Slovak Constitutional Court, Verfassungsblog. Accessed 1 March 2019
  35. Pech L, Scheppele K L (2017) Illiberalism Within: Rule of Law Backsliding in the EU. Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies 19:3–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Podolski T (2018a) Stadt Wetzlar widersetzt sich dem BVerfG, Legal Tribune Online. Accessed 1 March 2019
  37. Podolski T (2018b) Es war eben ein Dilemma. Legal Tribune Online. Accessed 1 March 2019
  38. Sanders A, von Danwitz L (2017a) The Polish Judiciary Reform: Problematic under European Standards and a Challenge for Germany. Verfassungsblog. Accessed 1 March 2019
  39. Sanders A, von Danwitz L (2017b) Defamation of Justice: Propositions on how to Evaluate Public Attacks against the Judiciary. Verfassungsblog. Accessed 1 March 2019
  40. Sanders A, von Danwitz L (2018a) Selecting Judges in Poland and Germany: Challenges to the Rule of Law in Europe and Propositions for a New Approach to Judicial Legitimacy. German Law Journal 19(4):769–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sanders A, von Danwitz L (2018b) Zulässigkeit und Grenzen von Kritik an der Justiz. Justice – Justiz – Giustizia 2018/2Google Scholar
  42. Scheppele K L (2016) Enforcing the Basic Principles of EU Law through Systemic Infringement Actions. In: Closa C, Kochenov D (eds) Reinforcing Rule of Law Oversight in the European Union. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 105–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shetreet S (2011) The Culture of Judicial Independence. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  44. Sieder R (2004) Renegotiating ‘Law and Order’: Judicial Reform and Citizen Responses in Post-war Guatemala. In: Gargarella A et al (eds) Democratization and the Judiciary: The Accountability Function of Courts in New Democracies. Frank Cass Publishers, London, pp 99–116Google Scholar
  45. Stein R (2009) Rule of Law: What does it Mean? Minnesota Journal of International Law 18:293–303Google Scholar
  46. Trochev A, Ellett R (2014) Judges and Their Allies. Rethinking Judicial Autonomy Through the Prism of Off-Bench Resistance. Journal of Law and Courts 1:67–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Troper M (2001) La Théorie du Droit, le Droit, l’État. Presses Universitaires de France, ParisGoogle Scholar
  48. Tsebelis G (1995) Decision Making in Political Systems: Veto Players in Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, Multicameralism and Multipartyism. British Journal of Political Science 25:289–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tsebelis G (2002) Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Von Bogdandy A, Kottman M, Antpöhler C, Dickschen J, Hentrei S, Smrkolj M (2012) Reverse Solange. Protecting the Essence of Fundamental Rights against EU Member States. Common Market Law Review 40:496–507Google Scholar
  51. Wendel M (2019) Mutual Trust, Essence and Federalism – Between Consolidating and Fragmenting the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice after LM. European Constitutional Law Review 15:17–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.University of BielefeldBielefeldGermany

Personalised recommendations