Article 7 TEU: From a Dormant Provision to an Active Enforcement Tool?

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For a long time considered, improperly, a sort of ‘nuclear’ option, Article 7 TEU is the key EU Treaty provision in the field of values enforcement. In the context of the Union’s current rule of law crisis, such a provision deserves the greatest attention, especially after the European Commission’s proposal in December 2017 to trigger the procedure against Poland, under Article 7(1) TEU. This article contributes to understandings of the provision by reviewing its main features and contextualising its deployment in the general Polish rule of law crisis, with the aim of evaluating whether it can now be considered as an operational instrument for values enforcement. Although the Commission’s (late) decision to activate the Article 7(1) TEU procedure should be welcomed as a major effort in restoring the rule of law within the European Union, the (perceived and real) limits of Article 7 TEU and the inertia of the EU institutions cast a shadow over the procedure’s effective implementation.

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