22nd Mar 2019

Poland seeks EU court adviser post in treaty talks

Poland is demanding that it gets a permanent legal adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) - a so-called advocate general - as part of ongoing talks on a new EU treaty.

The ECJ currently has eight advocates-general, who are the EU court's highest advisers. Five of them are normally drawn from the EU's 'big five' states Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain, with the other three posts rotating between smaller member states.

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  • Poland wants to be on an equal footing with the EU's big five (Photo: wikiepdia)

Poland now wants to be treated on an equal footing with the big five, Polish EU treaty negotiator Marek Cichocki said.

"In my opinion this is about equal representation of Poland in the different EU institutions. Every country in the EU wants to keep an eye on its own particular issues in the institutions. This is only obvious and natural and this is why Poland wants to have a permanent representative."

Before each ECJ ruling, one advocate-general issues a legal opinion, which is not binding, but in practice it is followed by judges in the majority of cases. Warsaw now wants the number of court advisers to be increased from eight to nine, allowing it to have its own permanent post.

EU diplomats said Warsaw had raised the issue in Brussels, where member states' legal experts are currently studying a draft of the EU's new Reform Treaty. Foreign ministers will meet for a first political discussion on the draft in Portugal later this week.

Poland's latest demand comes in addition to earlier concerns it had raised on the treaty draft - particularly on its voting weight in the EU council, member states' decision making body.

Poland wants to see a reference in the treaty text to the so-called Ioannina mechanism, whereby it can delay an EU decision if its vital interests are at stake. But most member states only want to have the Ioannina clause mentioned in a separate declaration which has less legal status.

"The main issue is the question where this mechanism is included," Mr Cichocki said. "Legally it has a bit lower value when it is put in a declaration. We would like it to be a little stronger."

"I believe this will be decided at the political level," he added.

Poland already fought hard for its voting rights at a bitter EU leaders summit in June, which saw a head-to-head clash between Warsaw and Berlin before an eleventh-hour deal on the treaty blueprint was reached.

Warsaw is now also set to dominate part of the last round of treaty negotiations, which the Portuguese EU presidency wants to wrap up at an EU leaders meeting in October.

The Poles are also still considering to opt out from the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, following the example of the UK which already secured an exemption from the rights charter at the June summit.

Poland's embattled conservative government dislikes the charter for its supposed liberalism on moral issues, but at the same time it is under pressure from trade unions - who support the charter's social rights catalogue - to refrain from the opt-out.

"This will rather be decided in the last period of the IGC," said Mr Cichocki.

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