Europe's Unfinished Transformation

After the communist takeovers across Eastern and Central Europe in 1945, the judiciary became the political and ideological instruments of the ruling communist parties. Then came 1989 and the hopes of establishing an independent court system. Yet over the past few years in several countries in Central and south-Eastern Europe, the judiciary has become targets for governments who are changing the retirement age of judges, interfering in their contracts, intimidating them through the social media or corruption, or ensuring that their 'own' judges are appointed. The result is that the individual's trust in the courts is weakened and with it, the rule of law. The greater the pressure on the judiciary, the greater the damage inflicted on democracy and accountability.

The consequences for Europe cannot be underestimated. First, from the geostrategic viewpoint, Russia and China can only revel in the deteriorating rule of law as nationalist, ultra-conservative, populist governments in several EU member states erode the independence of the judiciary. Second, a weak rule of law undermines transparency and accountability. This has a negative economic impact. Investors want clarity and the knowledge that the judiciary is independent. If not, they will stay away - or resort to bribing their way to win contracts. Third, continuing pressure on the judiciary weakens the EU as a whole as the bloc prides itself on promoting the rule of law.

What's gone wrong and how it can be rectified will be the questions Judy Dempsey tries to reply to in her work as Europe’s Futures Fellow in 2020/21.

Judy Dempsey

Judy Dempsey is a Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor-in-chief of its Strategic Europe blog since 2012. Prior to that, she was a columnist for the International New York Times and between 2004-201, the International Herald Tribune’s Germany Correspondent in Berlin.

From 2001 to 2004, Dempsey was the Financial Times’ Diplomatic Correspondent in Brussels covering the NATO and European Union enlargements. Between 1996 and 2001, she was the FT’s Jerusalem bureau chief, its Berlin correspondent from 1992–1996 and the FT’s Eastern European correspondent from 1990-1992. During the 1980s, Dempsey reported from Vienna on Central and Eastern Europe for the Financial Times, the Irish Times, and the Economist and was on the ground during the tumultuous months of 1989 and 1990.

Judy Dempsey studied History and Political Science at Trinity College, Dublin. She has been awarded several journalism prizes. She is the author of several publications including Das Phänomen Merkel.