The European Commission on Wednesday took the next step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, beginning the process that could strip Warsaw of its voting rights
In a statement, the Commission said that “despite efforts for a constructive dialogue for 2 years, we have concluded that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland,” stepping up the pressure over controversial changes to the judicial system.
Under the procedure, a majority of 22 out of 28-EU member states can now determine there is a “clear risk of a serious breach” of the bloc’s fundamental values. However, this move is unlikely to mean that Poland will be sanctioned, as Hungary has said it would not support sanctions at a procedure that requires unanimity in the European Council.
“Judicial reforms in Poland mean that the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority. In the absence of judicial independence, serious questions are raised about the effective application of EU law,” the Commission added.
EU executive’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) had adopted 13 laws in the last two years, creating an atmosphere where the Polish state “can systematically interfere with the composition, powers, the administration and the functioning” of the judiciary.
Furthermore, Timmermans also accused Warsaw of ignoring three warnings by the EU executive that its judicial measures were undermining the rule of law. “At the end of the day it is only the law that can protect us against naked political power, at the end of the day it is the law that keeps the European Union together,” he added, as the European Commission filed a lawsuit against Warsaw to the Court of Justice of the European Union after Poland introduced a new law on “ordinary courts.”
As a new prime minister just took office this month in Poland, the EU Commission informed Warsaw once more that the decision would be triggered if remedies were enacted within the next trimester. Although there has been no dialogue with the Polish government this year, Timmermans said that Brussels were open to talks all along.
Warsaw accuses Brussels of double standards
As for Poland, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said earlier on Wednesday that his country was not improvising, but what has been legislated was imported “solutions that already exist in many EU member states”.
“We do not agree to double standards if there, in other European countries, the so-called ‘old democracies’, these solutions can exist, while in the Polish so-called ‘new democracy’ these solutions are not accepted by EU officials,” added Waszczykowski.