This Wednesday (21st of December), the European Commission launched the article 7 procedure against Poland. The article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty provides a mechanism to safeguard fundamental EU values when they are considered under threat. This procedure is qualified as a “nuclear option”. It is the first time this procedure is triggered by European institutions.

In fact, the European Commission (EC) – announced by its Vice-President Frans Timmermans – launched the first step of the procedure due to “clear risk of serious breach of the rule of law”. By this expression, the EC conducted disciplinary action against the Polish reform of its judicial system, who is “now under the political control of the ruling majority” according to the EC press release.

In this context, several European voices was heard. Phillippe Lamberts (president of the Green/AFA’s group) said “we are glad that the European Commission finally followed our repeated calls”. Gianni Pittella – president of the S&D group – declared “we fully support the decision of the European Commission”. The president of the EPP group – Sergei Stanishev –  avowed that “the Polish government should stop portraying itself as a victim, the true victim here is Polish democracy”. Moreover, Iverna McGowan – director of Amnesty International European’s Institutions Office – admitted “the Polish government is finally seeing the consequences of their reckless drive to destroy freedoms in the country”.

The response of the Polish government claims that the EC procedure was “essentially political, not legal” and declares the will of the Polish administration “to continue to reform our justice system”. In both statement, European institutions and Polish government announced their wish to dialog and find solutions in matter of divergent visions of state of law.

The article 7 was triggered by one third of the Member States; and the first step is to give the opportunity for Poland to be in agreement with the EU fundamental rights. Before the official suspension of Poland’s voting rights, there are two more steps unavoidable and involving the three mains European institutions (Council, Commission and Parliament).

After Brexit, Poland is now threatening to weaken the unity of the European Union.

 

Jean-Hugue Baraër

For further information:

European Commission. Rule of Law: European Commission acts to defend judicial independence in Poland. Press release. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-5367_en.htm

Euractiv. Brussels triggers unprecedented action against Poland. https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/brussels-triggers-unprecedented-action-against-poland/

Politico EU. Brussels puts Warsaw on path to sanctions over rule of law. https://www.politico.eu/article/frans-timmermans-brussels-puts-warsaw-on-path-to-sanctions-over-rule-of-law/

Politico EU. Poland won’t back down. https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-rule-of-law-wont-back-down-from-brussels-eu/