EU Takes First Step Towards Removing Poland’s Voting Rights
The growing nationalist movement in Poland has led to growing concerns in the European Commission, who have now recommended that political sanctions be put in place to stop the drift towards authoritarianism.
Over the last two years the Polish government have allowed 13 laws to be passed that would allow it to put political appointees across “the entire structure of the justice system”, including courts that validate election results.
Following several years of warnings to the state, the Commission has now advised that it plans to invoke Article 7.1 of the EU treaty, which would start the legal process of removing Poland’s EU voting rights.
The vice president of the Commission Frans Timmermans said that the clause would be triggered “with a heavy heart”. He added “If you put an end or limit the separation of powers, you break down the rule of law, and that means breaking down the smooth functioning of the Union as a whole”.
“The Commission has issued a rule of law opinion and three rule of law recommendations, it has exchanged more than 25 letters with the Polish authorities on this matter; numerous meetings and contact between the Commission and Polish authorities have taken place.”
“Sadly, our concerns have deepened. Within a period of two years, 13 laws have been adopted which put at serious risk the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers in Poland. The entire structure of the justice system is affected: the constitutional tribunal, the Supreme Court, the ordinary courts, the national council for the judiciary, the prosecution service, and the national school of judiciary.
“The common pattern of all these legislative changes is that the executive or legislative powers are now set up in such a way that the ruling majority can now systematically interfere with the composition, power, and administration or functioning of these authorities – thereby rendering the independence of the judiciary completely moot.”
Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Prime Minister, said: “Poland is as devoted to the rule of law as the rest of the EU. Current judiciary reform is deeply needed. The dialogue between the Commission and Warsaw needs to be both open and honest. I believe that Poland’s sovereignty and the idea of United Europe can be reconciled”.
A spokesperson for the Law and Justice Party, who rule in Poland, suggested that the decision was due the fact that “we don’t want to accept Muslim migrants, as we care for the security of Poles”. A recent protest in Warsaw saw 60,000 nationalists campaigning for a “White Europe” which was defended by the Polish government as a “great celebration of Poles”.
Going forward, the EU plans to vote on whether to start the Article 7 process. In order for the law to be passed it requires a majority in court of 80% as well as the backing of the European Parliament.