Poland: EU may take unprecedented action after PiS judicial reforms

The ruling Law and Justice party’s (PiS) “serious attack on the rule of law” has the EU considering unprecedented action against Warsaw, reports The FT.
Timmermans Pis Poland
PiS president Jarosław Kaczynski

A proposed law to allow Poland’s government to handpick Supreme Court judges and gut the body that nominates judges (the KRS) has put Poland and the EU on ‘a potential collision course.’

The vice-president of the European Commission (EC) Frans Timmermans said the law – which Polish MPs are debating this week – may push the EC to ask EU countries to issue Poland a formal warning under the previously unused Article 7 of the Treaty of the EU.

This would be a ‘highly confrontational’ move, says The FT, as ‘governments are reluctant to issue formal declarations on the political and constitutional affairs of their peers.

“It should come as no surprise,” said Timmermans, “that given the latest developments, we are coming very close to triggering Article 7.”

The next step in the disciplinary process would be to strip Poland of EU voting rights, but officials said that option was not yet being considered.

Timmermans was most concerned about four legal reforms to the court system, which would give PiS ultimate power over the Supreme Court and the KRS, the body that chooses Poland’s judges.

Timmermans Pis Poland
EC vice-president on Euranet TV in 2014

“If these are applied, justice will fall under political control,” he said in Brussels. “We’re not talking about details here. We’re talking about building blocks of what the EU is and our societies are.”

He added that the rule of law was not “a plaything for lawyers,” but was “what keeps our society open, democratic.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday that he would veto the proposal unless the bill required support from three-fifths of MPs rather than a simple majority.

But the move was “not a solution,” said Agnieszka Pomaska of Civic Platform, the biggest opposition party. “The decisions on appointing members of the KRS will still be taken by politicians. PiS haven’t changed their approach at all.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president of the PiS said that the proposed ban was “a political act,” said Le Monde.

He described the EU’s action as “an abuse” of power on Polish TV on Wednesday evening (19/07).

“The subjects in question are of an exclusively national nature,” he added.

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