Monday

23rd Oct 2017

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.

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.

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.

Focus

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks