Monday

23rd Jul 2018

EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

  • President Duda’s move came as a surprise. (Photo: Kancelaria Prezydenta/flickr)

The European Commission was not impressed by Polish president Andrzej Duda’s decision, on Monday (24 July), to veto two of the draft laws that the EU executive heavily criticised last week.

The commission's spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said the EU executive is “following the events and situation in Poland very closely".

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.

... our join as a group

"Things are changing even as we speak," Schinas told reporters only two hours after Duda's announcement.

He confirmed that the college of EU commissioners will discuss the situation in Poland on Wednesday, and decide on the next steps.

"All developments, and all the changes that are going on will be addressed by the commission on Wednesday,” he said.

"This is a political commission, this is up to the political masters to discuss," he added, but declined to call Duda’s veto a positive development.

Schinas recalled that Poland had not responded to commission vice-president Frans Timmermans' invitation to the Polish justice and foreign ministers last week for dialogue.

The EU commission is insisting on dialogue about the rule of law, which the EU executive said had come under threat with the draft laws.

After a weekend of mass protests, Duda unexpectedly announced on Monday that he will send the bill on the Supreme Court back to the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, as well as the one about the National Council of the Judiciary.

Duda’s move came as a surprise, as he is a former member of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), and seen as loyal to the party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The bill on the Supreme Court would have forced all members of the court to step down, except for the ones appointed by the president upon the justice minister's suggestion.

Another draft would have given parliament control over the National Judicial Council, the body that appoints judges.

A third bill, which was not vetoed, would allow the justice minister to fire lead judges in lower courts.

All the bills were heavily criticised by Timmermans last week, who said the commission would launch infringement procedure against them, and prepare the launching of Article 7, the toughest sanction procedure against a member state in the EU’s toolkit.

The commission is waiting to see what consequences the veto will have. Duda will propose amendments, and the EU executive wants to see what they are.

“We want to see what changes for the Polish people,” an EU official said.

It remains to be seen whether the EU executive will proceed with the new infringement procedures in some of the areas. In any case, the procedures could only be launched once the laws are enacted.

One legal issue, for which the commission could launch an infringement procedure, is the early retirement of judges, which the commission can argue is discriminatory against women, as the age thresholds are vary between sexes under the new Polish legislation.

Similarly, the commission launched a probe against Hungary in 2012 on the discriminatory nature of the early retirement of judges, when the government lowered the retirement age from 70 to 62 and fired all the judges in-between.

In the case of Poland, the commission could also argue that the country's government is failing to give citizens effective access to justice by undermining the courts' independence. This argument has also been used against Hungary.

On Wednesday, the commissioners could endorse the legal reasoning behind the possible infringement procedures, and give a mandate to Timmermans to launch them whenever the laws are passed and published in Poland.

The EU commission has already launched a separate procedure on the rule of law last year, after Poland put in place controversial reforms on the constitutional court.

That procedure is still ongoing, and the commission is expected to approve a third set of recommendations on Wednesday in order to ask for more information on the Polish government and to warn it of the possible consequences if it went forward with its reform of the judicial system.

Orban vows to defend Poland from EU's 'inquisition'

The Hungarian leader called EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans an "inquisitor", allied with George Soros and the Brussels elite, and argued for the EU executive to stop being a political body.

EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7

The EU executive expects Warsaw to halt the judiciary reform and address concerns over the rule of law, and not to force out supreme court judges, or else the sanctions procedure will start.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Polish PM defends judicial witch-hunt

Poland's judicial purge was meant to punish former communists, its PM has said, in an angry EU debate that saw him ultimately promise to respect EU court rulings.

News in Brief

  1. Greece FM warns of Russian interference in Balkans
  2. Minister: No Franco-German disagreement on US tariffs
  3. UK Brexit minister warns of 'no-deal' preparations
  4. Munich: large protest against CSU's anti-migration line
  5. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  6. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  7. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  8. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. Russia sanctions: test of EU commitment to international law
  2. Malta's PM cleared of Panama Paper wrongdoing
  3. EU wants answers to de-dramatise Brexit talks
  4. Juncker White House trip trumps the agenda This WEEK
  5. Italian populists try to sink EU migrant mission
  6. EU urges no-deal Brexit preparation
  7. Turkey ends state of emergency but continues crackdown
  8. Trump did not misspeak on EU, says commission VP

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us