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EC to EU members: should rule of law proceedings against Poland be stepped up?

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 06.09.2017 08:30
European Union countries are on Wednesday expected to be asked whether the Polish government is breaking democratic principles amid an ongoing row between Warsaw and Brussels over the rule of law in Poland, the Reuters news agency has said.
The European Commission's headquarters at the Berlaymont building, Brussels. Photo: Wikimedia commons/Sebastien Bertrand.The European Commission's headquarters at the Berlaymont building, Brussels. Photo: Wikimedia commons/Sebastien Bertrand.

The ruling conservatives in Poland insist democratic principles are being upheld, but Brussels raised concerns over the rule of law in Poland after the Law and Justice party introduced sweeping changes to the constitutional court shortly after winning elections in late 2015.

Those concerns were exacerbated in July when Law and Justice passed justice system reform bills which would have given elected officials significant powers to appoint and dismiss judges.

Poland's ruling conservatives have said that sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

But critics domestically and abroad said the reforms were an attack on democracy and accused Law and Justice of trying to stack the courts with their own candidates.

Two of three judicial reform bills were vetoed by the president in Poland, but Law and Justice pledged it would go ahead with significant changes to the justice system.

The planned overhaul of the justice system was recently criticised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Germany could not “keep its mouth shut in order to keep the peace”.

According to Reuters, her speaking out would make the European Union “more likely to head toward an unprecedented punishment of Warsaw”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also voiced concerns and said Poland was isolating itself within the European Union.

Meanwhile, European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans on Monday said he was optimistic that the situation in Poland could be resolved, but that the commission was prepared to use the tools which are at its disposal.

Among those tools is Article Seven, which could allow for sanctions to be imposed against Poland if they are unanimously backed in Brussels.

According to Reuters, the European Commission will ask European Union member states to discuss the situation in Poland on Wednesday and again on 25 September.

Those meetings are not expected to trigger Article Seven, according to Reuters, which added that the meetings aim to gauge the bloc's members support for stepping up procedures against Poland.

The rule of law procedure is one of a slew of disputes between Brussels and Warsaw.

Poland's foreign minister has accused Brussels of “harassing” and “discriminatory” policies and of trying to “deprive Poland of its position”. (vb/pk)

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