European Commission adopts Rule of Law Recommendation on situation in Poland

The European Commission issued an official recommendation for the Polish government in the second stage of the ongoing rule of law procedure instigated in January with regard to the political stalemate over the Constitutional Tribunal, the Commission’s first Vice-President Frans Timmermans said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Despite the dialogue with Polish authorities being conducted since the beginning of the year, in the Commission’s view the key issues threatening the rule of law in Poland have not been solved,” Timmermans said.

Polish authorities are asked to swear in judges legally elected by the previous term of parliament, “publish and fully implement” the tribunal rulings withheld and are advised to publish future rulings automatically.

The authorities are also advised to ensure that any future reforms of the constitutional law take into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the tribunal’s rulings to date.

The most recent act on Constitutional Tribunal, passed on July 22, should be subject to a constitutional review and screened for compliance with the Venice Commission recommendations before it is implemented.

The government is also invited to inform the Commission on progress on these fronts within three months.

The European Commission launched the first of the three stages of the rule of law procedure against Poland on January 13 in relation to a conflict over the Constitutional Tribunal.

The European Commission’s decision to issue an official recommendation for Poland in the second stage of the ongoing rule of law procedure concerning the country’s Constitutional Tribunal is “premature” and exposes the Commission to the risk of “losing the authority needed to fulfill the functions described in the treaties,” Poland’s Foreign Ministry said in a reaction to the Commission’s statement. The Polish government will soon complete the work on the new bill on the Tribunal, the ministry said.

Poland’s most recent Constitutional Tribunal amendment introduces solutions which are fully in line with European standards of constitutional courts, the ministry said.

The Constitutional Tribunal contention weakens Poland’s position in the EU at a time when the EU is preparing for a debate on its reform, the daily Gazeta Wyborcza wrote.

Poland’s lower house, Friday, after a heated debate and among vehement protests of opposition parties, approved the final version of the new law on the Constitutional Tribunal. The bill now waits to be signed into law by the president.

The bill stipulates, among others, that the Tribunal will need to rule on cases in the order they are submitted, and suspends cases currently in the Tribunal for six months in order to satisfy new formal requirements. It also introduces the rule that four Tribunal judges will be able to block the announcement of a ruling by up to six months and blocks the nomination for three Tribunal judges lawfully appointed by the previous parliament but not sworn in by the President.

The Constitutional Tribunal has been at the center of a controversy PiS took power in October and began efforts to limiting the powers of the top court which has the power to block government-proposed legislation if it finds it unconstitutional. International organizations and foreign leaders have criticized changes to the Constitutional Tribunal law passed by the Polish parliament dominated by PiS saying that Poland’s rule of law is threatened and democratic standards undermined.

Comments are closed.