The European Commission has suggested the EU Council to trigger Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty which could pave the way for sanctions against Poland in order to “protect the rule of law.”
According to EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, 13 laws adopted over the past several years by Warsaw have created a situation where the Polish government “can systematically politically interfere with the composition, powers, the administration and the functioning” of judicial authorities.
Poland was quick to react to the announcement, with the Justice Ministry’s head saying that the country would continue its legislative reform despite the threat of EU sanctions.
“I accept this decision calmly. It’s about politics, not about the rule of law,” Zbigniew Ziobro said.
In its turn, the Polish Foreign Ministry has stated that Warsaw is ready to defend its position in the European top court.
The Polish ruling party spokeswoman has also slammed the decision, alleging that possible EU sanctions may be related to the country’s refusal to accept Muslim migrants, apparently referring to the Visegrad Four political and cultural alliance’s, which also comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, clash with the EC on the issue of refugee quotas over their dissatisfaction with the system and lack of participation.
Previously, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that is set to launch a mechanism for the application of political and economic sanctions by the European Union against Poland for the country’s reforms that, according to the bloc, constitute a deviation from democracy and the rule of law. For its part, Warsaw has slammed the move as “an instrument of political pressure upon Poland.”
In July, the Polish parliament introduced a set of draft laws to reform the judiciary system. Polish President Andrzej Duda vetoed two of these bills, which concerned the National Council of Judiciary and the Supreme Court, but reintroduced them once amended. Nevertheless, they were criticized by the European Commission since they threatened the principle of the separation of powers.
The third bill, on ordinary courts, was signed by the president. Soon after the publication of the new legislation, the European Commission started an infringement procedure against Poland as the law on ordinary courts violated EU laws regarding judicial independence as well as gender equality, due to different retirement ages for men and women.
The European Commission has sent several letters to the authorities in Warsaw where it set forth its recommendations and stated its readiness to invoke Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would suspend Poland’s membership rights in the European Union, such as voting in the Council of Europe.