European Commission outlines possible action against the rule of law crisis in Poland
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European Commission outlines possible action against the rule of law crisis in Poland

EP Plenary session - The Rule of law crisis in Poland and the primacy of EU law, 19 October, credit: EP

In a speech at the European Parliament plenary on Tuesday morning, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen listed three options for action against Poland following the recent ruling of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal on the primacy of EU law.

The court did not say explicitly that the Polish constitution always takes precedence over EU law but concluded that certain articles in the EU treaty is inconsistent with the constitution “insofar the EU creates an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

Von der Leyen expressed then her deep concern by the ruling and said that she has instructed the Commission’s services to analyse the ruling thoroughly and swiftly.

In her speech she listed the options available – infringements, rule of law mechanism and the Article 7 procedure – but only after she had reached out to the Polish government and appealed to it to recognise the unity of the European legal order.

She recalled among others Poland’s recent history when the Solidarity movement challenged the Communist regime and Karol Wojtyła, as Pope John Paul II, who went to his homeland and changed European history. Undermining the rule of law would have serious consequences for the Polish people.

“Polish people must be able to rely on fair and equal treatment in the judicial system, just like any other European citizen. In our Union, we all enjoy the same rights.  This basic principle fundamentally impacts people’s lives. Because if European law is applied differently in Grenoble, Göttingen or Gdansk, EU citizens would not be able to rely on the same rights everywhere.”

Being accused in the past for dragging its feet in taking actions against member states that undermine the independence of the judiciary, the Commission seems now determined to activate one of its tools. The three options differ in a nature and it is not yet clear which one of them will be applied.

The first one, infringements, are often used against member states that have not transposed EU law correctly and can result in sanctions. The second one, the rule of law mechanism, is a new measure linked to the post-Covid recovery funding and intended to protect the EU budget against irregularities. The third option, Article 7, was described by the President as “the powerful tool in the Treaty.”

But apparently, she is prepared to continue the dialogue with Poland and give its government a last chance to get its house in order.

She finished her speech emotionally in Polish: “Poland, you are and you will always be in the heart of Europe! Long live Poland! Long live Europe!”

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

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