Dec 6, 2023, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
Louis A Simpson A71



Event Description

Despite its dark past, Europe has always imagined itself to have a bright future.   Building what became the European Union after WWII represented the triumph of hope over experience.    And for decades, the “ever closer Union” seemed to not only support the defense of common values, but also to create an economy whose rising continental tide lifted all national boats.   Publicly committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law amidst prosperity, Europe presented itself as a beacon to the world.

In the last decade, however, the EU has had to face a set of internal crises that have shaken its self-image as a Europe of values.   For the first time in its history, a member state quit.   Other member states have careened toward autocracy, and one – Hungary – has crashed out the club of democracies.  The rise of the far-right in once-liberal bastions like the Netherlands raises questions about which states can anchor the defense of European values.   The small glimmer of hope from the Polish elections earlier this fall so far does not appear to have illuminated the whole continent.  Instead, the upcoming European parliamentary elections in June 2024 will occur at a time when far-right parties are seeing a groundswell of support and the vision of liberal Europe has fewer and fewer defenders.   

Our panel will discuss Europe’s way forward amidst these signs of dangers for the European project.

  1. R. Daniel Kelemen,  McCourt Chair at the McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University: "Will Europe Escape its Autocracy Trap?"
  2. John Morijn, Chair in Law and Politics in International Relations, University of Groningen, Netherlands and Fellow in Law, Ethics and Public Policy, Princeton University:   “How to Save European Democracy”
  3. Laurent Pech, Dean of Law and Head of the Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin: “The Future of the Rule of Law”
  4. Kim Lane Scheppele, Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Princeton University: “Europe’s New Democracy Deficit”


About our speakers:

R. Daniel Kelemen joined the faculty at the McCourt policy school at Georgetown this year, with an appointment also in Georgetown’s law school, after many years teaching in the political science department at Rutgers University.  His research interests include the politics and law of the European Union, comparative politics and law, and comparative public policy. His 2011 book - Eurolegalism: The Transformation of Law and Regulation in the European Union (Harvard University Press) won the Best Book Award from the European Union Studies Association. He is also the author of The Rules of Federalism: Institutions and Regulatory Politics in the EU and Beyond (Harvard University Press, 2004), as well as over one hundred book chapters and articles in journals including the American Political Science Review, World Politics, International Organization, Comparative Political Studies, West European Politics, Journal of Public Policy and Journal of European Public Policy.  

John Morijn is visiting Princeton this year as a Law, Ethics and Public Policy fellow, on leave from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, where he was inaugurated chair in 2022.   He was recently elected chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, and he is a member of the Meijers Committee, which advised the Dutch parliament and executive on their obligations under European and international law.  A former diplomat who worked at the Dutch foreign ministry and in the permanent representation of the Dutch government in the EU, Morijn is also the mentor of the Our Rule of Law Foundation, a for-students-by-students project which aims to connect future rule of law leaders with current rule of law leaders.   He is a frequent consultant to the European Parliament and other EU bodies. 

Laurent Pech is dean of the Sunderland School of Law at University College Dublin.   He is also Senior Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute in Budapest, and the co-director of The Good Lobby Profs which he co-founded in 2021. From 2018 to 2022, Pech was a member of a H2020 funded four-year multidisciplinary research project on "Reconciling Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and the Rule of Law" (RECONNECT).   His many publications on the rule of law in Europe and, in particular, on the attacks on the judiciary in Poland have made him a visible public commentator on Europe’s rule of law crisis. 

Kim Lane Scheppele came to Princeton 18 years ago from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  A specialist in comparative constitutional law and European law, Scheppele has focused on the rise and fall of constitutional democracy with a special focus on Eastern Europe.  Living in Hungary and Russia for extended periods as these two countries were discovering democracy after Soviet rule, she has also tracked the collapse of democracy in both places, with consequences for the broader European project, in more than 100 publications in social science journals, law reviews and edited volumes in the US and Europe.   Her article, “Autocratic Legalism” (University of Chicago Law Review 2018) launched an international research project on the decline of democracy including more than 400 researchers in the Global South and became a best-seller as a small book in Hebrew during the democracy protests in Israel in 2023.   Her book, Destroying Democracy by Law, will be out next year with Harvard University Press.   


All four of our panelists today blog frequently at the Verfassungsblog, a major website for breaking EU legal news. 

  • Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination
  • European Union Program at Princeton
  • Contemporary European Politics & Society
  • Program in Law and Normative Thinking