Since the populist rise (especially in Central and Eastern European countries), scholars focusing on human rights have used the terms such as 'the rule of law crisis,' 'human rights backlash,' or 'democratic backsliding.' Despite these terms primarily referring to policies and rhetoric carried out by populist governments, there are more actors than just populist parties involved in and responding to current development in Europe. On the one hand, right-wing and fundamentalist organisations use legal mobilization to challenge human rights and European standards. Those organizations with the support of populist governments are seeking social change through extensive usage of legal norms, discourse, or symbols. Therefore, institutions such as constitutional courts and constitutional litigation, designed to protect liberal rights and freedoms, are used to restrict them. Right-wing organizations learned how to use legal actions and tools, sometimes even more efficiently than liberal and human rights organisations that mastered these tools in the last decades.
On the other hand, their effectiveness spurs the activities of liberal, rule-of-law-oriented legal (academic and judicial) organisations. Previously rather abstract categories like ‘constitution’ and ‘rule of law’ are becoming political ideas capable of mobilizing protest. In the middle of this, we also have the EU institutions responding to the populist and nationalist challenge by seeking to close its democratic deficit and mobilize European political citizenship.
During the workshop, we would like to discuss the following:
- what are the legal and political criteria that distinguish between correct and unacceptable legal mobilization,
- how populism facilitates legal mobilization,
- what role do non-state actors play in populist regimes, and what legal tools do they use,
- what is the mobilization potential of European institutions, law, and academia,
- what are the ways of stopping counter-legal mobilization?