Following a debate on the rule of law in Poland at the final weekly meeting of EU commissioners in Brussels before the summer break, the European Commission said on Wednesday it believed a “systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland” existed.
It follows months of dialogue between the European Commission and the Law and Justice party in Poland which swept to power last November. “Despite the dialogue pursued with the Polish authorities since the beginning of the year, the commission considers the main issues which threaten the rule of law in Poland have not been resolved,” European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said. “Our fundamental concerns are still unresolved.”
The Polish parliament introduced changes earlier this month to the constitutional court to appease US and European concerns, including removing the enhanced role granted to the president regarding the internal disciplinary proceedings of the court.
But the changes were deemed insufficient by the European Commission on Wednesday. In particular, Mr Timmermans said Polish authorities must publish and fully implement the findings of the constitutional tribunal on the nomination of judges. He also said that future judgments of the tribunal should be published automatically, and the nomination of judges under the previous administration should be upheld.
The Polish government has now been given three months to implement the recommended changes and report to the European Commission.
Ultimately, the escalation of tensions between Brussels and Warsaw could lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights at the EU table.
Poland rejected Wednesday’s recommendation, arguing the requests for more changes were premature. “The law on the constitutional tribunal, which is entering the last phases of the legislative process, is to introduce various systemic solutions which are entirely in line with European standards of constitutional court functioning,” the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Among the changes to the constitutional court introduced by the new government in December was the requirement that decisions be passed by a two-thirds rather than simple majority.
Wednesday’s announcement marks the second stage in the European Commission’s disciplinary procedure against Poland, one of the EU’s largest and most powerful members.
Brussels has become increasingly alarmed about rule-of-law in Poland since the electoral victory of the Law and Justice party last autumn.
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