Judiciary reform in Poland: JEF Europe and JEF Poland call upon European institutions to defend rule of law
Brussels/Warsaw, 21st July 2017
The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe and JEF Poland are highly alarmed by the recent legislative changes in Poland, which will allow for a further consolidation of power for the current governing political party. “If the European Commission, as Guardian of the treaties, is serious about defending the democratic and legal fabric of Europe, the Commission is left with no other choice than to react to what is happening in Poland and trigger Article 7, starting with the procedure of paragraph 1”, argues Christopher Glück, President of JEF Europe.
“We cannot afford to wait for the dismantlement of liberal democracies and risk the principle of a one-party state having been realised in the Union”, Glück elaborates. With its majority representation in the parliament, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has adopted a law which provides the elected bodies and the government with greater discretion in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court. The law is to be added to a series of actions from the Polish government since it won the 2015 elections, aiming at restricting the rule of law and human rights, including media freedom and freedom of assembly. The government has previously increased state control over public media and the Constitutional Court, whose role is to check that laws are compliant with the Polish constitution.
Opponents to the current legislative initiative see another attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary power in the country, thus further threatening democratic check and balances. On Sunday, 16th July, thousands of protesters, amongst which JEFers, gathered in Poland’s largest cities against the judicial reform brought forward by the PiS party. “It is unacceptable for a fundamental democratic principle as the rule of law to be overlooked daily by the individuals in power to further their own interests”, explains Laura Krawczyk, President of JEF Poland.
“We are at a crossroad, calling for supportwaiting for aid from fellow EUother countries and the EU institutions to help us with the fight for law, justice, and freedom by, whilst taking to the streets and social media to denounce the actions of PiS. Show us the solidarity which has build our country and stand strong in our fight forbywith us in working on a united and just Europe where female rights, freedom of the press, and the rule of law, are not being fought for, but are functioning principles of daily life”, concludes Krawczyk.
The judiciary reform does not only concern Polish citizens but also EU citizens living in Poland and more widely all EU citizens, as these countries contribute to the adoption of norms and legislations that bind all EU Member States. JEF Europe therefore calls for the European institutions to step up to their responsibilities and calls for the European Commission to trigger Article 7, warmly welcoming the positive signs coming from Frans Timmermans.
In 2016, the European Commission firstly reacted by triggering the Rule of Law Framework, a new legal mechanism created in 2014 in order to address the backsliding of Member States from common European values. It enables the European Commission to enter into a structured dialogue with a Member State responsible for the escalation of systemic threats to the rule of law. The Polish government adopted a very uncooperative stance when the Commission made recommendations and requested compliance with their Treaty obligations under this new framework.
Unfortunately, just like in the case of Hungary, following the terms of Article 7(1) TEU, we, therefore, call on the European Commission or the European Parliament to stop waiting for the Council to act and instead to launch the Article 7 procedure. At a time where thousands of people take to streets and protest by waving both the Polish and the European flag, it is high time for the European Union to send a strong sign of support in their direction.
About the “Art. 7 procedure”
The Article 7 TEU procedure 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 to suspend certain rights of the Member State, e.g. voting rights in the Council.
Statement by JEF Europe on Poland, March 11, 2016
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