Senior EU official wants rekindled rule-of-law dialogue with Poland

EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

First Vice-President of European Commission in charge of Better regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights, Dutch, Frans Timmermans attends a hearing on Poland by European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee in Brussels, Belgium, 22 March 2017.

Senior EU official wants rekindled rule-of-law dialogue with Poland


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European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans has said that most EU countries want the Commission to rekindle dialogue with Warsaw about concerns over the rule of law in Poland.

“I hope that this will incentivise both the commission and the Polish government to try and find new ways forward,” Timmermans said after European and foreign affairs chiefs of the 28 EU member states met in Brussels on May 16.

“But obviously you can only find ways forward if there is a willingness to look into the recommendations that the commission has put on the table,” he added.

As reported by Radio Poland online, talks between Poland and the European Commission came to an impasse after the Polish authorities insisted there was no threat to democratic principles in this country, despite the EU’s executive arm putting forward a swathe of recommendations for Warsaw.

Timmermans, who previously mentioned further action, has taken sanctions against Poland off the table and suggested it would be counterproductive to give Warsaw a deadline to react after the meeting on May 16.

“I don’t want to do that, I want to see if this is an opportunity to rekindle the dialogue,” he said.

“Having said that, you know our toolbox, all the tools are in the toolbox and if we need to use the tools in our toolbox, the commission is free to do so.”

In January 2016, the European Commission announced it was starting a “rule-of-law” probe into whether far-reaching changes made by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Changes to the judiciary at one point triggered a political deadlock over the country’s constitutional court.

According to Radio Poland, critics accused the governing Law and Justice party of aiming to stack the Constitutional Tribunal, Poland’s top court, with PiS supporters, undermining its ability to challenge new laws.

PiS argued it was unfair that a constitutional court with most judges appointed by the previous parliament should be able to scupper flagship policies for which the government secured a mandate in democratic elections in late 2015.

Meanwhile, Polish Supreme Court judges meeting in a general assembly on May 16 passed a resolution warning that further changes to the judiciary planned by the government “are leading to the destruction of the judicial system” and aim to “subordinate the courts to politicians.”

The resolution added: “In this situation, the Supreme Court cannot remain indifferent to the obvious violation of the principles and norms of the constitution”.

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