EN - Rule of Law in Poland - Press conference by European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights: "It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to initiate Article 7(1), but the facts leave us no choice" - ENGLISH version - 19.12.2017 - European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
Frans Timmermans: "I would like to speak to you about the situation in Poland as regards the rule of law.
Sadly our concerns have deepened. Within a period of two years a significant numbers of laws have been adopted - 13 in total - which put at serious risk the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers in Poland.
The entire structure of the justice system is affected: the Constitutional Tribunal, the Supreme Court, the ordinary courts, the National Council for the Judiciary, the prosecution service and the National School of Judiciary.
The common pattern of all these legislative changes is that the executive or legislative powers are now set up in such a way that the ruling majority can systematically, politically interfere with the composition, the powers, the administration and the functioning of these authorities, thereby rendering the independence of the judiciary completely moot. (...)
The Commission's concerns are fully shared by a wide range of European and international organisations, including the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, the United Nations, the OSCE and various European Networks of Supreme Courts, Constitutional Courts and highest Administrative Courts, Councils for the Judiciary, and Bar Associations, and also by the European Parliament which took a very clear position. (...)
What does this mean for the European Union? Respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for the protection of all the values of Article 2 in our Treaty, as well as for the effective application of EU law, for the proper functioning of the Single Market, for an investment-friendly environment and, last but not least, for the mutual trust which is the corner stone of cooperation between Member States in the Justice and Home affairs areas. (...)
The Commission has issued a Rule of Law Opinion and three Rule of Law Recommendations. It has exchanged more than 25 letters with the Polish authorities on this matter. Numerous meetings and contacts between the Commission and the Polish authorities took place, both in Warsaw and in Brussels.
Again, we have always been ready to relaunch the dialogue with the Polish authorities and continue to invite the Polish Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Justice here in Brussels or I was always prepared to travel to Warsaw to meet them there.
We've also been clear of what we ask of the Polish authorities (...).
After two years the Commission can only conclude that there is now a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law. Today we therefore have adopted three measures that are linked.
First, the Commission issued today a 4th Rule of Law Recommendation, setting out clearly a list of steps that the Polish authorities can still take to remedy the current situation in the coming three months.
Second, the Commission decided to invoke the Article 7(1) procedure and submit a Reasoned Proposal for a Decision of the Council on the determination of a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law by Poland. However, should the Polish authorities implement the recommended actions in the coming three months, the Commission stands ready, in consultation with the European Parliament and the Council, to reconsider its Reasoned Proposal.
Let me be very clear on one issue, because I saw here and there in the media: "nuclear option." This is not a nuclear option. (...). It's again an attempt to start a dialogue to resolve the situation.
Our third step: we have decided to take the next step in its infringement procedure against Poland for breaches of EU law by the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation, referring Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
I want to be very clear: it is with a heavy heart that we have decided to initiate Article 7(1), but the facts leave us no choice. I stood before you in July, when I clearly said that we'd almost reached the situation where we would need to invoke Article 7(1). The situation since then has not improved, but deteriorated. So we have no other option than to do this today.
The Rule of Law is a necessary condition for effective cooperation between Member States. This is not just about the situation in Poland, this about the EU as a whole, about who we are. (...)
That's why we continue to hope that we can soon enter into a more fruitful dialogue with the Polish authorities. (...)"
Full text here: europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-17-5387_en.htm
Q&A with the (Polish) Press.
© Frédérick Moulin 2017 - EU2017 - European Commission - All rights reserved.