19th Mar 2018

EU Commission sets red lines for Poland on Article 7

  • Timmermans said a hand is still extended to Warsaw for dialogue. (Photo: European Commission)

The Article 7 sanction procedure will be triggered by the European Commission against Poland if Warsaw fails to address the concerns over the judicial reforms or starts firing Supreme Court judges, the institution's vice-president, Frans Timmermans, said on Wednesday (26 July).

The European Commission is sending a new set of recommendations to Poland, setting a one-month deadline for the Warsaw government to “solve all the problems identified” in its judicial overhaul.

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 past week some things have changed in Poland, and some things have not' (Photo: Jorge Lascar)

The commission also set a red line for Poland: if it decides to fire any of the Supreme Court judges, the EU executive would trigger the Article 7 sanctions procedure immediately.

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, said earlier in the week that he would veto the law that would require supreme court judges to step down and allow the government to appoint new ones.

Duda also vetoed another law, out of the four, that raised concerns in the commission: the bill giving the parliamentary majority the right to name members of the National Council of the Judiciary, which nominates judges.

But Timmermans hinted that the commission is not impressed: “This past week some things have changed in Poland, and some things have not,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“The current reforms significantly increase the systemic threat to the rule of law,” Timmermans added.

The commission is awaiting new drafts on the issue of the supreme court, but said that “any measure” taken to dismiss or fire judges in the meantime would entail launching Article 7.

“If such action is taken, the commission is ready to immediately launch the Article 7.1 procedure,” the vice-president said, referring to the first phase of the process - establishing the “clear risk of a serious breach” of EU values.

In its new, third set of recommendations to Poland, the commission says that the judicial reform "amplifies the systemic threat to the rule of law" already identified in the rule of law procedure that started last January.

The so-called rule of law procedure, first used in the case of Poland, deals with systematic threats that individual infringement probes cannot tackle.

Under this procedure, the commission has already sent two rounds of recommendations to Poland. However, the country has failed to address the concerns in those recommendations and dismissed them as political interference.

The new recommendations build on the earlier versions and concern the lack of an independent and legitimate constitutional review in Poland and the four new laws that have become part of a judicial reform and threaten to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

This time, the commission has given the Polish authorities one month to address the concerns.

Timmermans has not set out any sort of sanctions if Poland does not respond to the commission’s recommendations, saying the EU executive will decide on the next steps once it has received a reply.

No reply, or an insufficient reply that fails to address the commission concerns on the ongoing judicial reform will mean that the rule of law mechanism has been “exhausted” and the Article 7 procedure can be initiated, an EU official said.

“If the Polish government goes ahead with undermining the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Poland, we will have no other choice than to trigger Article 7,” commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.

Timmermans said that the commission is open to dialogue and asks Warsaw to put the controversial laws on hold and engage.

The Dutch commissioner also said he would brief member states in the Council of the EU, in September or October, on the situation in Poland.

To launch Article 7 upon the commission's initiative, 22 out of the 28 EU member states would need to agree.

Legal probe ASAP

In a separate action, the EU executive has also authorised Timmermans to launch an infringement procedure. This legal probe would look into the legislation on ordinary courts, signed by president Duda on Tuesday, as soon as the law has been officially published.

The law is giving the justice minister the power to hire and fire senior judges.

The legal basis used by the commission will be EU rules on gender discrimination, due to introduction of a different retirement age for female and male judges.

In the meantime, dialogue with Warsaw will remain difficult.

Days of protests in Poland led to president Duda halting the judicial reform. His move was unexpected, as he is a former member of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), and seen by many as an ally of party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

However, prime minister Beata Szydlo vowed this week to press ahead with the reforms, to clamp down on “unaccountable” judges.

Orban vows to defend Poland from EU's 'inquisition'

The Hungarian leader called EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans an "inquisitor", allied with George Soros and the Brussels elite, and argued for the EU executive to stop being a political body.

EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

Andrzej Duda decided to veto two of the controversial draft laws, which would put the judiciary under political control, but the EU executive is awaiting details before deciding on whether to launch legal probes on Wednesday.

Poland 'leaving EU community of values'

Leading MEPs and legal watchdogs have raised the alarm on Polish judicial reforms, but the European Commission declined to speak out so far.


Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue

Fico convinced the EU commission chief to take action in the perceived problem of discriminatory food practices, even though the evidence for the phenomenon is anecdotal.


The populists may have won, but Italy won't leave the euro

The situation as Rome tries to form a government is turbulent and unpredictable. However, the most extreme eurosceptic policies floated during the election campaign are unlikely to happen - not least due to the precarious state of the Italian banks.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Latest News

  1. Selmayr case symptomatic, warns EU novel author
  2. Russia poisoning is not EU concern, Germany says
  3. Kiev wants EU sanctions on former German chancellor
  4. North Korea: time to put the 'E' in engagement
  5. Brexit and trade will top This WEEK
  6. Dutch MPs in plan to shut EU website on Russian propaganda
  7. Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea
  8. Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction