This paper analyses the use of the rule-of-law principle in the jurisprudence of the constitutional courts of the new Member States of the European Union. The purpose is to discover whether past or recent decisions could clarify the use of the principle in these countries. An example is the legalistic concept of the rule of law as expressed by the Hungarian and Polish constitutional courts in examining the constitutionality of lustration laws. On the other hand, some constitutional courts (such as the Czech one) have used a wider and more sophisticated application of the rule of law. Considering the severe rule-of-law crisis which has been taking place in Hungary and Poland in recent years, this recognition is particularly important in order to avoid cumulative judgments that could devalue the former communist countries in general, trivializing the harsh path of democratic conditionality with its strengths and weaknesses.