Situation in Poland: JEF Europe calls upon EU national governments to respect core democratic values

Photo: PAP/Jacek Turczyk

The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe and JEF Poland are highly alarmed by the latest legislative changes adopted in Poland, which allowed for a further consolidation of the power of the currently governing political party. “Let this not become a further example for disrespect of European values inside the EU: Members of the EU need to respect democratic standards and the rule of law. The European Commission and Parliament need to be observant guardians in this case”, urges Christopher Glück, President of JEF Europe.

The democratic election showed a broad majority for the Law and Justice Party in October 2015, allowing it to form the government alone. In December, a law was amended requiring the Constitutional Tribunal, the country's highest court, to adopt most rulings by two-thirds majority with at least 13 judges present. The new and complicated procedure has undermined the ability of the Court to deliver rulings on legislations. The media law, adopted in January 2016, was subject to much concern as it changes the public broadcasting system, allowing the treasury minister the right to hire and fire the broadcasting chiefs, which is currently done by a media supervisory committee. This change gives the current government the opportunity to influence the media in its favour. Furthermore, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe underlines that public debate has also suffered as the law was “rushed through Parliament [within a] week”. The appointment of the Polish Minister of Justice as the formerly independent Attorney General caused further concern about the independence of the judicial system, and even though the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled on 9 March that the new rules introduced to regulate the court functioning are unconstitutional, the new government still seems not willing to take a step back. JEF Europe therefore welcomes that the European Commission has launched a rule of law probe.

“The current situation in Poland shows that democracy does not only consist of elections: it constantly needs to be kept alive. We are worried that the current democratically elected government may abuse its majority and turn Poland away from core democratic values”
, explains Glück.

JEF Europe and its members, in this case particularly JEF Poland, are strongly committed to promoting democratic standards within Europe. This is why the Executive Board of JEF Europe would like to express its support for the emerging pro-rule of law protest movement in Poland. JEF Europe and JEF Poland will continue their non-partisan support for democracy and rule of law and will monitor closely further developments in Poland.

“Ever since the Law and Justice party (PiS) won the elections in Poland, they have been opting for less integration on the European level and more focus on domestic issues. And yet, ironically, when people took to the streets and marched, the European affairs became domestic issues, and now all eyes are on the Polish government”, declares Laura Krawczyk, President of JEF Poland. 

The constitutional changes in Poland sadly further illustrate the acute need for continuing the annual pan-European “Democracy under Pressure” campaign on March 18, which marks the 10th anniversary of the action. Every year, JEF members across Europe raise awareness for the fact that democratic rights and participation is still not a reality for everyone in Europe. The Statutory Committee Meeting beginning In April the Young European Federalists will meet for the first time in Poland for a Statutory Meeting. This will highlight the impressive European path Poland has travelled but also draw attention to the fact that achievements can easily be lost if citizens stop speaking out for democracy.