Wednesday

22nd May 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. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us