ERCAS congratulates Dr. Martin Mendelski, a member of the EU FP7 ANTICORRP project and affiliate of ERCAS partner Romanian Academic Society (SAR): He was awarded the “THESEUS Award for Promising Research on European Integration” for his PhD thesis entitled “The Limits of the European Union’s Transformative Power: Pathologies of Europeanization and Rule of Law Reform in Central and Eastern Europe”.
Mendelski’s doctoral thesis argues that the EU’s impact on the rule of law depends on the social order in which countries (from Central and Eastern Europe) are located. The findings of the study show that EU-driven reforms tend to undermine the rule of law in closed-access and transitional social orders (e.g. Moldova, Romania, Western Balkans), by reinforcing legal pathologies (e.g. legal instability and incoherence, politicization). These detrimental effects of Europeanization tend to occur when empowered and unchecked reformers instrumentalize judicial and anti-corruption reforms (including newly created anti-corruption agencies, judicial structures and laws). In contrast, the “pathological power” of the EU is less harmful in open-access social orders (e.g. Poland, Estonia) where it is constrained by reform-resisting and independent horizontal accountability institutions (e.g. Constitutional Courts, Ombudsmen, judicial councils). To explain differences in the rule of law more systematically, an original causal theory of “virtuous and vicious reform cycles” is proposed. The main implication is that EU conditionality is not transformative but reinforcing, i.e. reformers tend to reproduce the respective social order in which they are embedded and thus cement the post-communist divergence in the rule of law. The thesis further makes several policy recommendations to remedy the pathological impact of donor-driven reforms. Two papers resulting from his research can be found on the ANTICORRP website.
The THESEUS award is awarded for excellent work by junior researchers in the field of European integration. The rewarded works have been PhD theses or publications in major journals, which analyse on-going challenges for the European Union and its member states with regard to the institutions, policies or policymaking processes of the European Union or from a comparative perspective across the member states of the European Union, recommending potential institutional or policy solutions.