Wednesday

16th Oct 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.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us