Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met with the European Commission on March 8 to discuss Warsaw’s take on controversial judicial reforms that could lead to EU sanctions if the Polish government continues to stonewall Brussels’ attempts to find a compromise.
Morawiecki handed his government’s ‘white paper’ to the Berlaymont and warned of other actions on behalf of the EU executive that could fuel a populist backlash in Poland. “We expect a deep and serious analysis of this document,” Morawiecki told journalists in Brussels.
European Commission First Vice-president Frans Timmermans launched, on behalf of the bloc. legal action against the Polish government’s tactics and reforms regarding the Eastern European country’s judiciary, saying they were “systemic threats” to the independence of the courts.
Warsaw would had three months to comply with the Commission’s demands, but with only 12 days to go before the March 20 deadline expires, the Polish government’s stern 96-page “White paper” that was to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as part of a dialogue to end a two-year row, talks that Morawiecki called “very constructive, very promising”.
The Berlaymont chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said the commission “will carefully assess the document”, a procedure that could lead the Commission to propose that the European Council strip Poland of its voting rights under Article 7 procedure of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This procedure covers systemic threats to the rule of law and has never been used by the Commission against an EU Member State.
Warsaw, however, has refused to budge on its drive to re-shape the Polish justice system, insisting that the previous legal framework in Poland was corrupt and in need of reform. The ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party of Jarosław Kaczyński has passed a series of reforms to the Polish judiciary. These include granting the president greater powers to appoint judges to the Supreme Court, whose duties include confirming election results.
The European Parliament on March 1 voted 422 in favour to 147 against, with 48 abstentions, on a non-binding resolution to support the Commission’s action against the EU’s largest former Communist state.