EU Democracy & Human Rights: Is the Dog Wagging the Tail?

  • Kathleen Barrett (Speaker)
  • Matthew Kolasa (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


The European Union (EU) has positioned itself internationally as a vanguard for progressive democracy and human rights. Before being admitted to the European Union, countries were required to meet strict standards for democracy and human rights. Yet in the EU, as elsewhere, institutions and human rights are being stressed by both politics and actions related to the COVID-19 reactions. In Hungary, the government increased its ability to act unilaterally in reaction to COVID-19 and in Poland, the government made efforts to administer its election completely by mail (Freedom House, 2021), following previous years’ efforts in both countries to alter election rules (Freedom House, 2020, 2019). Human rights were also affected when Hungary passed laws limiting LGBTQAI+ rights as well as religious freedoms and Poland’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling limiting access to abortion (Freedom House 2021). However, recent years have seen these same trends – increasing partisan contestation over election rules and conservative laws setting limits on rights - in non-EU countries. Are member countries setting limits on the EU’s commitment to human rights? Or, did Brexit cause the EU to prioritize commitment to membership of standards of human rights and democracy?

This paper reexamines European Integration theories in the context of Brexit, varied confidence in national governments and the EU (Eurobarometer, World Values Survey), and the current political environment in Hungary and Poland. It argues that although citizens have avenues to enjoin supranational support to ensure their protections, the democratic processes demanded by the EU limit its ability to interfere in national political contestation.
Period1 Apr 2022
Event titleInternational Studies Association Annual Convention
Event typeConference
LocationNashville, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Poland
  • Hungary
  • European Union
  • Democratization
  • European Integration
  • European Disintegration
  • EU Law
  • Human Rights