MEPs underline ‘overwhelming evidence’ of rule of law breaches in Poland

Deputies have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a report criticising the “continuing deterioration” of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Poland.
PA

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

20 Jul 2020

The report, drafted by S&D member Juan Fernando López Aguilar, says there is a “clear risk of a serious breach” of the rule of law and European values by Poland.

The warning is timely as it comes against the backdrop of the continuing EU summit on Monday, the fourth day of the discussions.

EU leaders, ahead of the summit which started on Friday, were told that an “effective conditionality mechanism, that protects the EU’s budget when the rule of law is breached, is a priority condition” for the budget negotiations with the European Parliament.

The summit will be asked to ensure that respect for the rule of law is a condition of a Member State receiving EU funds in the future.

The text of the report focuses on the “continuing deterioration” in Poland, including the functioning of the legislative and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of judges, and the protection of fundamental rights.

López Aguilar said, “There is no comparable case in Europe, other than Hungary, which is also subject to an ongoing Article 7 procedure.”

“Over a period of just five years, the ruling majority has produced a cascade of acts using expedited parliamentary procedures, with no concessions to parliamentary opposition nor to any minority, severely affecting rule of law values.”

“This fact-based report gives a detailed overview of how the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights have been undermined and damaged in Poland since 2015. The situation is very concerning” Juan Fernando López Aguilar MEP

“Furthermore, no other government is facing four infringement procedures for ignoring CJEU rulings. Abiding by EU law is what being a Member State is all about.”

The interim report is scheduled to be debated and voted on in plenary in September, when Parliament resumes its work after the summer recess.

López Aguilar, Parliament’s rapporteur on the rule of law in Poland and chair of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, added, “This fact-based report gives a detailed overview of how the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights have been undermined and damaged in Poland since 2015. The situation is very concerning.”

“After taking over and politicising the Constitutional Tribunal and the National Council of the Judiciary, the PiS government continued by dismantling the Supreme Court, while at the same time running an intimidation campaign against judges who were critical of these changes to the judicial system.”

“What we have witnessed in Poland is not just a one-off, but a series of different actions and legislative reforms undertaken by PiS majority that all together clearly amount to a serious, sustained and systemic breach of the rule of law.”

“That is why Council must finally act and take the Article 7 procedure to the next step. This means issuing clear recommendations for Poland and, in case that the breach of the rule of law persists, coming forward with the pertinent measures.”

“Nevertheless, as serious as our concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Poland are, those are not our only concerns. We are deeply worried about the situation of fundamental rights, particularly regarding media freedom and the protection of minorities.”

“It’s a pathetic display that a country that was hailed as a model of transformation from communism to a democracy in just 5 years was turned by the PiS government into a country which can no longer be rated as a full democracy” Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs

“During the presidential campaign, public media bias was particularly visible on these issues, favouring the incumbent president, with the LGBTI community presented as a new enemy, whose human dignity was even questioned by President Duda.”

“Taking into account all these worrisome developments, my report calls for a widening of the scope of the Article 7 (1) procedure in relation to Poland to include the state of democracy and the protection of fundamental rights.”

Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, added, “It’s a pathetic display that a country that was hailed as a model of transformation from communism to a democracy, in just 5 years was turned by the PiS government into a country which can no longer be rated as a full democracy.”

She added, “However, after seeing such an enormous turnout of Polish citizens, especially young people, showing their aspirations for more democracy, more fundamental rights and more equality in last week’s elections in Poland, there is hope that this is only temporary. We must stand by their side.”

“Poland, but also Hungary make it more than clear: We must also never compromise on our common European values. That is why I urge European heads of state that are still in Brussels for the summit not to give in to Orbán and Morawiecki, and to agree on a new strong rule of law mechanism that would enable the European Commission to punish governments who breach the rule of law by suspending EU funds.”

“It's time for much bolder action to defend democracy in Poland and elsewhere in Europe.”

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