European Commission acts to preserve the rule of law in Poland

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details IP/17/2161 (26.07.17)
Publication Date 26/07/2017
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Background and further information:

The European Commission asked Poland's authorities to address the issue highlighted by the Recommendation within one month, in particular concerning any measure that could dismiss or force the retirement of Supreme Court judges. If such measure was taken, the Commission indicated it would stand ready to immediately trigger the Article 7 mechanism on defending the rule of law in EU member states.

Regarding the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation, the Commission pointed out that it would immediately send a Letter of Formal Notice once that Law was published in the Polish Official Journal of the Law. It officially launched the infringement procedure on 29 July 2017.

The Polish Government criticised the European Commission move. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: 'The MFA notes with concern that the European Commission once again talks about a dialogue, but instead it uses a language of ultimatums, arbitrarily setting the agenda of talks'.

The systemic threat over the rule of law in Poland was first identified formally by the European Commission in January 2016. An investigation was then launched into Poland's first set of measures on the judicial system and engaged in a dialogue with the country's authorities in the framework of a Rule of Law procedure.

The Commission published an Opinion on 1 June 2016 and was met with criticism by the Polish government. Following up on this document, a Recommendation was published on 27 July 2016, reflecting some changes to the judicial reform proposed by the Polish government to address the issues raised but pointing out these had not been enough.

In December 2016, the Commission discussed the state of play of the procedure concerning the Rule of Law in Poland and decided to issue a complementary Rule of Law Recommendation. In February 2017, the country's foreign minister considered the issue to be a 'closed case', without addressing the indications from the Commission.

The government later decided to put forward a further set of four legislative measures reforming the judiciary as a whole - proposals on the National School of Judiciary, on the National Council for the Judiciary, on the Ordinary Courts Organisation and on the Supreme Court.

On 19 July 2017, the European Commission indicated it was considering a proposal to trigger Article 7 of the Treaties following a meeting of the College of Commissioners, given what they assessed as an increasingly concerning situation in Poland.

The European Commission published on 26 July 2017 a Rule of Law Recommendation addressed to the Polish authorities, substantiating its concerns on the planned reform of the judiciary in the country.

The Commission also decided to launch an infringement proceeding against Poland relating to the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation, endorsed by the country's President on 24 July. The Letter of Formal Notice was sent on 29 July.

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee discussed the matter on 31 August, with the presence of the Commission's First Vice-President.

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