A thorny path to the spotlight: The rule of law component in EU external policies and EU-Ukraine relations
The rule of law and its promotion abroad is currently at the core of EU external policies, specifically in the European neighbourhood. But has it always been the case? This article traces the rule of law component of EU external policies in general and EU–Ukraine relations as a case study, and reveals that in the last two decades the rule of law has followed a thorny path to the spotlight, emerging from a rather peripheral place in the 1990s to its currently central one. The article argues that this is a result of three processes: the legislative mainstreaming of the rule of law in the EU itself, the growing ambitiousness of EU–Ukraine relations, and the increased visibility of systemic shortcomings in rule of law application in Ukraine due to the trials of opposition politicians since 2010. The article concludes by suggesting that rule of law components of other EU bilateral relations in the European neighbourhood and beyond are subject to similar processes.