Thursday

14th Dec 2017

What does EU scrutiny of Poland mean?

  • Commissioners will discuss recent developments in Poland on Wednesday on their regular college meeting in this room (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The European Commission will discuss on Wednesday (13 January) whether to launch a monitoring procedure against Poland, because of perceived systematic threats to the rule of law in the EU member state.

On Monday, commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas would not confirm a report by the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper over the weekend saying the Commission was to initiate the procedure.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

“This is an orientation debate and they will decide on the next steps,” Schinas said.

A “factual report” will be presented to the college of commissioners on Wednesday by vice-president Frans Timmermans on the state of play and on how the rule of law monitoring works, a source said.

The commissioners will then hold a political debate and decide if they want to put Poland under further scrutiny.

What is the rule of law framework?

The commission cooked up the rule of law framework in 2014 after it became clear in the case of democratic concerns over Hungary that the EU had no tools to treat systematic rule of law problems in a member state.

The EU can force its members to correct individual legislation though infringement procedures.

Or, there is article 7 of the EU treaty, nicknamed the “nuclear option”, whereby member states can unanimously state that there is a “clear risk of a serious breach by a member states of the values” of the EU and eventually prompt sanctions.

Yet, in between, the rule of law framework only constitutes a political dialogue, without legally binding recommendations or sanctions.

Its three phases are assessment, recommendations and follow-up.

Legal clarity

“The framework was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough, and needs to be converted into a proper mechanism,” Sergio Carrera, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels told EUobserver.

“What is lacking is legal clarity how you monitor member states routinely, if they comply with human rights and fundamental rights,” he said.

Carrera added that Wednesday’s meeting is a good sign, but it is regrettable that it is done behind closed doors.

He argued that secrecy does not help the EU’s narrative and only feeds the populist rhetoric that Brussels is interfering in countries' internal affairs.

Carrera highlighted that the discussion should not focus on one or two member states.

He argued for a rule of law mechanism that, like with the economic monitoring of the EU, regularly checks the health of member states’ separation of powers, system of checks and balances, based on independent factors.

“These are the foundation of any EU law, and mutual trust between member states,” he said, adding that guarding the EU's principles was in the interest of all the member states.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) should be part of the procedure so as to ensure depoliticisation, Carrera argued.

“We don’t have an independent scrutiny yet that could force the rule of law dialogue to kick-start,” Carrera said.

EU dilemma

For now, there is no automatism in the system. Even if the commission eventually says that there is something wrong with the rule of law in Poland, that does not necessarily mean that an article 7 procedure will commence.

That can be proposed by the commission, one-third of the member states or the European Parliament, and is decided on by the member states.

Poland, similar to Hungary over the last years, poses a serious dilemma for Brussels, which is repeatedly accused of interfering in member states' affairs yet it is tasked with ensuring EU principles are respected in those countries.

“Illiberal democracies are against EU principles,” Carrera pointed out.

“That the EU does not take a stand and say illiberal democracy is against the EU principles, it risks that others might copy Poland and Hungary,” he added.

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.

Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

EU summit leaders on Thursday will not reach any deal on migration, while Italy and the Visegrad Group countries confront each other on the Trust Fund for Africa. The debate on internal EU asylum relocation, however, remains off the table.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  2. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  3. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  4. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  5. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat
  6. US pleads for clarity on Brexit aviation 'black hole'
  7. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  8. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives