European Commission triggers Article 7 against Poland over serious 'breach of law'

ANI | Updated: Dec 20, 2017 21:09 IST

Brussels [Belgium], December 20 (ANI): The European Commission has triggered Article 7 for the first time, against Poland over a judicial reform dispute, saying that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland, the Guardian reported.

The EU has triggered a process that could ultimately see Poland stripped of voting rights in Brussels in an unprecedented step designed to force the country's rightwing government to drop reforms the bloc regards as a threat to the country's democracy.

According to the commission's Vice-President Frans Timmermans, 13 laws, adopted over the past several years by Warsaw, have created a situation, where the Polish government "can systematically politically interfere with the composition, powers, the administration and the functioning" of the judicial authorities.

The EC has also formally advised the other 27 member states that the legislative programme of Poland's government is putting at risk the fundamental values expected of a democratic state, including judicial independence.

The issuing of a formal warning to Poland has been recommended, ahead of further possible sanctions, in an act, that will exacerbate a growing sense of crisis over Poland's membership of the EU.

Frans Timmermans warned in the summer that the EU was 'perilously close' to launching Article 7 over around 40 pieces of legislation, relating to the country's judiciary.

He has described the reforms by the ruling Law and Justice Party as a danger to the integrity of the internal market, as well as the Polish people.

The Polish government insists that the judiciary retains too much of the institutional architecture, that was in place during Poland's time as a communist state, and needs to be purged and placed in a new legal framework.

The most serious sanction possible would be to suspend the member state of its voting rights in EU institutions, but that would require unanimity among the member states in a subsequent vote. Hungary's rightwing regime has insisted it would never support such a move.

The development will prove highly awkward for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who will be in Warsaw for a UK-Poland summit on Thursday. She hopes to push forward her vision of a post-Brexit trading relationship with the rest of Europe.

May, who will be travelling with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, and Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is likely to be asked which side of the argument she supports.

The UK government has been ambiguous over its position, due to concerns that Brussels should not be meddling in domestic affairs.

In July, the Polish parliament introduced a set of draft laws to reform the judiciary system. Polish President Andrzej Duda vetoed two of these bills, which concerned the National Council of Judiciary and the Supreme Court, but reintroduced them once amended.

Nevertheless, they were criticized by the EC since they threatened the principle of the separation of powers.

The row over the Polish government's reforms to the country's judiciary has been going on for the last two years. But, it appeared to have come to a stop in the wake of the Polish senate's decision last Friday to approve the legislation. It has given the executive greater control of the Supreme Court and National Council of the judiciary, which appoints judges. (ANI)