Monday

24th Jul 2017

EU commission increases pressure on Poland

  • The constitutional tribunal is at the heart of the Polish political crisis. (Photo: Lukas Plewnia)

The EU Commission hopes to increase pressure on Poland ahead of the debate between commissioners next Wednesday (13 January) on the constitutional crisis in the eastern European EU member state, although no decision is expected.

The new Polish government led by the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) inserted friendly judges into the constitutional tribunal and made it harder for the tribunal to stop new laws, prompting a constitutional crisis.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It also rushed through a controversial media law giving the government direct control over top appointments in public broadcasting, a move criticised by Guenther Oettinger the German EU commissioner for digital economy.

The vice-president of the commission in charge of overseeing the rule of law, Frans Timmermans, wrote two letters to Warsaw in which he requested information on the legislation.

The Polish government is yet to return with an answer, though there is no set deadline for them to comment.

Last Sunday (3 January), the EU Commission, in an effort put political pressure on Poland, noted that the debate next Wednesday could open the so-called rule of law mechanism, a process for checking the health of the democracy in a member state, which could eventually result in the suspension of voting rights in the Council of the European Union.

However, the bloc's executive has since backtracked and now says the meeting next Wednesday will be only a first debate on recent events, "taking stock" of political movements in Warsaw.

Timmermans, Oettinger and justice commissioner Vera Jourova are expected to prepare a detailed report for commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

One source said that Juncker's cabinet chief, Martin Selmayr, wanted to put extra pressure on the Polish government with the threat of launching the process as early as next week, but that some commissioners were urging for more caution.

Selmayr is very familiar with rule of law issues, as he served as chief of cabinet for former justice commissioner Viviane Reding, who has was at the forefront of similar debates with Hungary in the previous commission.

Even if the commission decides to launch the procedure, first it needs to analyse the situation in Poland and then come up with recommendations.

The day before the gathering of the college of commissioners will be crucial, as Poland's constitutional tribunal is to hold a meeting on Tuesday (12 January); its president has pledged not to involve the newly appointed members, which could mean a further escalation of the crisis.

Nevertheless, the commission is keen to act as fast as possible.

The view in the Berlaymont building of the commission is that revamping the constitutional tribunal effectively abolishes the checks and balances in Poland's democracy.

Officials suggest neighbouring Germany, a political heavyweight in the EU, is also very much interested in stopping Poland's slide towards populism.

Dismantling the constitutional tribunal in Poland has hit a particular nerve in Germany which holds its constitutional court in Karlsruhe in high regard and is a symbol of its exit from totalitarianism.

The rule of law mechanism was created in 2014 after it became clear that the EU had limited tools to deal with member states that passed controversial legislation challenging the fundamental values of the bloc, as highlighted by several years of political battle between Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban and Brussels.

It has never been tested, but its purpose is to deal with systematic problems in a country without resorting to the so-called Article 7 procedure that could eventually see the suspension of voting rights of the member state concerned.

Another way the EU could make Poland steer back from its course is the suspension of EU funds to the country, but officials insist that that is not on the table as reneging on operational contracts could mean opening "Pandora's box."

EU commission criticism upsets Warsaw

The Polish foreign ministry has summoned the European Commission’s top official in Warsaw to clarify criticism of its new media law.

Agenda

Poland in spotlight This WEEK

Poland in spotlight this week as EU commission discusses its controversial new laws, while the EU continues to put pressure on Turkey to stem the flow of migrants.

Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU

Lawmakers in Poland adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court, despite warnings from the EU that the move could trigger a sanction procedure over the rule of law.

News in Brief

  1. Wallonia's Magnette leaves national politics
  2. Polish president vetoes justice reforms
  3. Turkey arrests protesters, as journalists go to trial
  4. Poll: Only 24% of Germans want 'strong leader'
  5. US envoy: 'hot war' not frozen conflict in Ukraine
  6. BMW denies Dieselgate cartel allegations
  7. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  8. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. German car cartel case may take long time to prove
  2. Stronger EU-Egypt ties must not disregard human rights
  3. Orban vows to defend Poland from EU's 'inquisition'
  4. Greece looking at bond market return
  5. Young people show up in droves to defend Poland's courts
  6. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  7. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  8. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions