Systemic Threat to the Rule of Law in Poland: What should the Commission do next?

‘Without the full integral application of the Rule of Law across the EU, the European Union is doomed’, Frans Timmermans at the European Parliament’s plenary session on 25 October 2016

‘We won’t introduce any changes into Poland’s legal system that are incompatible with the interests of the Polish state and its people and lack substantive grounds’, Beata Szydlo, Polish Prime Minister, 27 October 2016

This post will examine the Polish government’s refusal to implement the recommendations adopted by the Commission on 27 July 2016. Poland had three months to implement these recommendations in order to address the systemic threat to the rule of law identified by the Commission. The different options available to the Commission will then be briefly explored, the most dramatic of which is a possible recourse to Article 7 TEU, the provision empowering EU institutions, under certain demanding conditions, to suspend inter alia the voting rights of the relevant national government in the Council of the EU.

Background

On 13 January 2016, for the first time ever, the European Commission announced that it would carry out a preliminary assessment of the situation of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal under the Rule of Law Framework, a new instrument it adopted in 2014 and the main features of which are briefly described here and critically analysed here.

According to Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, the primary justification for this unprecedented step was ‘the fact that binding rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal are currently not respected’, which ‘is a serious matter in any rule of law-dominated state’ ...

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