Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Poland defends controversial measures in EU letter

  • Ziobro used a more relaxed tone in his latest letter to the commission (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Poland’s government has defended its changes to the constitutional tribunal and media law in a letter sent Tuesday (19 January) in response to the EU Commission’s inquiry launched last week.

The tone of the letter signed by Poland’s justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, to EU Commission vice president Frans Timmermans is more conciliatory than previous letters by the minister, which have accused the Dutch commissioner of left-wing bias and "astonishing" lack of knowledge.

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

There are no accusations that the EU Commission is trying to exert pressure on Poland in this letter, possibly signalling a shift in Poland’s strategy for dealing with the commission’s probe into its rule of law practices.

It emphasises that Poland's government and current parliamentary majority, held by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, is guided by democracy and the rule of law.

Ziobro wrote he was “glad to read your [Timmerman’s] declaration that the European Commission does not intend to challenge the outcomes of the democratic elections in Poland”, and welcomes the “assurances” of impartiality.

The four-page letter, seen by EUobserver, goes into detailed explanation of why the appointment of five judges by the previous government was problematic and went against Polish constitutional custom (the new government later appointed its own judges), and argues that the government did follow the court’s ruling with regards to the appointments.

It also argues that “the election and appointment of judges as a result of a parliament’s resolution … is not subject to the assessment of the Constitutional Court”, adding that the “Parliament is the only body which is competent to assess such a resolution”.

On Timmerman’s concerns over measures that curtail the tribunal’s ability to assess the constitutionality of laws enacted by parliament, the Polish letter argues the new measures will help to reduce the backlog of cases and shorten the time a verdict is produced, while the “varied composition of the court improves the likelihood of reaching balanced verdicts”.

It does not specifically address however the issue of raising the bar for decisions: now a two-thirds majority among the 15 constitutional judges is needed, instead of a simple majority, with a quorum of 13 judges instead of nine.

The minister expresses hope that they will be able to discuss the matter more in depth during Timmerman's upcoming visit to Poland.

Tuesday’s letter was the first Polish response since the EU Commission launched its so called rule of law framework last Wednesday, in which, after a period of dialogue with the member state, the Commission is to come up with an assessment and possibly specific recommendations.

Oettinger visit

In another short letter, also sent on Tuesday, EU Commissioner for digital affairs Guenther Oettinger offered to travel to Poland as well to discuss media pluralism and concerns over the Polish government trying to place the public broadcaster under its direct control.

Oettinger sent his letter in reply to justice minister Ziobro’s earlier provocative letter, which had been prompted by the German commissioner’s remarks that Poland needed to be put under “supervision”, referring to the Commission’s rule of law framework.

Ziobro then compared the idea of supervision by a German official to Nazi crimes. “You [Oettinger] demanded that Poland be placed under ‘supervision’. Such words, spoken by a German politician, have the worst possible connotations for Poles,” Ziobro wrote in an open letter earlier this month.

EU and Poland aim to calm tensions

EU Council president Donald Tusk and Polish president Andrzej Duda tried to calm tensions ahead of an EP debate on recent reforms in Poland that critics say threaten the rule of law.

EU commission puts Poland on the hook

The EU commission has triggered rule-of-law monitoring of Poland, in an unprecedented step, prompted by constitutional and media reforms. The move follows a nasty exchange of letters.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us