Brussels, December 22, 2017.
Regretting that it had to come this far, JEF Europe and JEF Poland welcome the honesty in the conclusion of the European Commission that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland. Following this observation, the European Commission, often called the “Guardian of the Treaties”, has decided to propose to the Council to adopt a decision under Article 7(1) TEU - a process that has never been triggered before in the history of European integration and that could potentially lead to the suspension of voting rights of Poland in the Council.
A decision under Article 7(1) is certainly no cause for celebration, but JEF Europe believes it is a necessary step to assert the European Union’s nature as a Union of shared values. If this day marks the beginning of the end of the European Union’s patience with the creeping erosion of its principles in some Member States, it might be a much needed turning point in the development of the European project.
The Sejm - the Polish Lower House - and Senate have adopted two laws that, as Human Rights Watch summarised, “force[...] most of the Supreme Court into retirement, and give the ruling party control over judicial appointments. The government, which has a parliamentary majority, went ahead without waiting for the advice of the Council of Europe’s legal advisory body, the Venice Commission”. This means, that once adopted, the ruling party is not only in charge of the executive but also the judicial branches of government.
The European Union is a community “founded on the values of [...] freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law” (Art. 2 TEU). However, the legal framework as given by the Treaty of Lisbon is not sufficient to ensure full protection of these values in Member States. While the Copenhagen Criteria demand high democratic standards of countries that want to access the European Union, there is no similar system for Member States. Thus, whilst fully respecting the outcomes of democratic processes, JEF Europe demands the introduction of a European Review Mechanism on Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights, as proposed by the European Parliament and by a resolution adopted in 2016 by the members of JEF Europe. This mechanism would allow for a regular scoreboard for fundamental rights as well as introduce a systematic fundamental rights assessment for legislative proposals, similar to the already existing assessments of proportionality and subsidiarity for any EU legislative proposals.
More information on Article 7
The Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) allows for EU institutions to flag a clear risk of a serious breach (Art. 7(1) TEU) and of the existence of a serious and persistent breach of EU values (Art. 7(2) TEU). In case the latter has been determined, the Council, meaning the EU Member States, may decide by unanimity to suspend certain rights of the Member State, e.g. voting rights in the Council.
The latter is the institution in which diplomats and representatives of national ministeries work on and negotiate European law; not to be confused with the European Council which is composed of all EU heads of government and where general political directions are defined.
Read it in Polish
More information on JEF Europe
The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with 13.000 members active in more than 35 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.
More information on JEF Poland
JEF Poland (M?odzi Europejscy Federali?ci) is the Polish Section of JEF-Europe. It was founded in 2013, and became a full national section two years later, in 2015. The current capacity of the organisation includes, but is not limited to: debates, formal conversations, media relations, and social gatherings.
JEF Europe on Rule of Law in Poland
March 11, 2016: Statement by JEF Europe on Poland: Situation in Poland: JEF Europe calls upon EU national governments to respect core democratic values
November 24, 2016: Resolution adopted at the Federal Committee of JEF Europe - Regarding the protection of the Rule of Law in the European Union
July 21, 2017: Judiciary reform in Poland:JEF Europe and JEF Poland call upon European institutions to defend rule of law
More information by the Council of Europe and the European Commission
December 8, 2017. Council of Europe: Poland: Recent reforms constitute “grave threat” to the judiciary, say legal experts of the Venice Commission
December 20, 2017 Rule of Law: European Commission acts to defend judicial independence in Poland
JEF Europe Secretariat
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