Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Poland questions legality of EU probe

  • Kaczynski, an MP who doesn't hold any office, is widely seen as being in control of Poland's reaction (Photo: marcin ejsmont)

Poland has questioned the legal legitimacy of the European Commission’s rule of law monitoring procedure on the eve of a potentially damning decision.

"The procedure that is currently being used against us is a non-treaty procedure, a made-up one, and it can be challenged in the Court of Justice of the European Union at any moment”, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, told Do Rzeczy, a Polish weekly, in an interview out on Monday (30 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“If it gets fierce, we will do this”, he said.

"European centres do not respect [member states’] … sovereignty, which means they don't respect Poland and don't respect the Poles," he added.

The Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, the same day also told Polish broadcaster TVN24 that the “legitimacy” of the procedure is open to debate because it is not part of the EU’s 2010 Lisbon Treaty.

“It’s not based on the treaties, it’s based on a certain practice, invented by European Union officials, not even of a high rank but of a middle rank”, he said.

“The European Commission has the right to make suggestions, proposals, to give advice. But Commission officials, who are chosen on the basis of political deals between states, should not judge member states, they’re not there for that,” he added.

The dispute arose after PiS, which came to power last October, installed loyalist judges in the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Tribunal, and watered down the court’s ability to vet new laws.

The court rejected the changes, but PiS did not recognise its rejection nor publish it in the country’s official gazette, creating a legal limbo.

The commission has drafted a report on the situation in line with the new monitoring mechanism, created in 2014.

If the report is published it would make Poland the first country in EU history not just to face monitoring but to also go to stage two of the process.

EU sources familiar with the text told EUobserver that it accused Poland of breaking democratic standards, referenced a similar verdict by the Venice Commission, a panel of judicial experts at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and gave Poland two weeks to take remedial action.

If Poland does not comply, the procedure could end in suspension of Warsaw's voting rights in the EU Council.

Commission deputy head Frans Timmermans had threatened to publish the paper on Monday, but he held back pending the outcome of talks with Polish PM Beata Szydlo. The publication could now take place after the 28 commissioners meet on Wednesday.

'Readiness for dialogue'

Kaczynski, in his interview, outlined Poland’s compromise proposal.

“On all the issues on the functioning of the court, such as the majority needed to take decisions, the duration [of the judges’ terms] - we can talk about that by all means”, he said.

He said he is ready to publish the tribunal’s rejection of the changes in Poland's official gazette but only as a “historic” text and not as a binding verdict.

But he said the new PiS-loyal judges must stay in place and must play a full role in court decisions.

Waszczykowski said that the Commission had “no grounds to initiate any type of punitive procedure” because PiS had shown “readiness for dialogue”.

He said that Timmermans knew “how far Poland could be ready to compromise” but that the Polish opposition was trying to use the issue as “an instrument of political infighting”.

Attacking Tusk

Kaczynski, in his interview with Do Rzeczy, also attacked EU Council chief Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister with the now opposition Civic Platform party.

The PiS chief said Poland might not back Tusk to stay in his EU post for another two and half years after his current term expires in mid-2017.

He said Tusk "scored negative points" because he met in Brussels with Mateusz Kijowski, the head of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy, an anti-PiS protest movement.

He added that if Polish people get top jobs abroad, they “should not hurt Poland's interests … If they are over there, they should not be a party in the conflicts taking place here”.

Poland vows solution to judicial crisis

Polish PM Szydlo and EU commissioner Timmermans appeared to mend fences in Warsaw. But neither would say how Poland will address concerns.

Analysis

EU still shy of 'nuclear option' on values

The EU commission has moved forward with its rule-of-law probe on Poland, but critics say that a better framework is needed to uphold values.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  2. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  3. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  4. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  5. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  6. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  7. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  8. Former EU official sentenced for office rape

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  2. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  3. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  4. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  5. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  6. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  7. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  8. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us