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Photo:Quartier Européen Nord, Kirchberg: Towers, European Court of Justice,” by sprklg licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Bornemann, Jonas. “Judicial Responses to Autocratic Legalism: The European Court of Justice in a Cleft Stick?.” European Papers-A Journal on Law and Integration 2022, no. 2 (2022): 651-670.


In recent years, the Court of Justice has become one of the most pronounced voices of opposition to illiberal projects in Europe. Its tenacity, however, has turned the Court into the target of national lawmakers who seek to undermine the authority of the Court and Union law more generally. The present investigation suggests that these attacks share recurrent features and may be qualified as “autocratic legalism”. It will be argued that, above all, attacks of this nature are aimed at calling into question the authority of the European Court of Justice among national audiences. For European judges, consequently, this raises the question how to appropriately respond to such efforts. Although there may be no ideal solution in this regard, the present investigation discerns three responses in the jurisprudence of the Court and assesses these approaches in the light of the strategic objectives pursued by autocratic legalists.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.