The European Parliament will again debate tonight the deteriorating situation of rule of law in Poland. The Socialists and Democrats will call on the European Commission and the Council to use all available instruments at their disposal to defend the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the primacy of EU law in Poland.
The S&Ds are reiterating the need for a new EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights to assess the situation in all member states, and potential consequences when it comes to access to EU funds.
S&D MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, EP rapporteur on Poland and chair of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs and Spain’s former justice minister, said:
“When we debated the situation in Poland in January, we thought that things could not get any worse. We were wrong. Against the warnings from the Venice Commission, and only a few days after Commissioner Jourová’s visit to Warsaw, the Polish President signed a new disciplinary law widely referred to as a ‘muzzling law’. Under this new law, judges can be punished, or even dismissed, for criticising or questioning the legitimacy of judicial reforms undertaken by the PiS government. The new law does not only aim to take away judges’ independence, but in fact, it also prevents Polish judges from applying European law as interpreted by the European Court of Justice.
“We must say it loud and clear: this is a direct attack on the legal foundations of the EU and could lead de facto to Poland withdrawing from the EU legal order. The S&Ds call on the European Commission to launch a new infringement procedure concerning this so-called ‘muzzle law’ and on the Council to finally take the Article 7 procedure to the next level.”
S&D MEP Katarina Barley, European Parliament vice-president and a member of the LIBE rule of law working group and Germany’s former justice minister, added:
“Despite repeated warnings from this Parliament, the EU Commission, the Venice Commission's independent experts and the judges themselves, the Polish government is bringing the judiciary under political control. The PiS government’s actions, by passing many small laws, come together like a mosaic to form a large picture. This is a picture in which judgements by independent courts are not welcomed, but punished as a disciplinary offense. An image in which the primacy of European law no longer applies. An image of an independent judiciary that no longer deserves its name.
“The Commission should immediately ask the ECJ for interim measures to stop the ‘muzzle law’. However, this is not enough. As the EU, we have to be clear: There must be no cherry-picking. Anyone who wants to benefit from EU funds must adhere to fundamental values. The rule of law is crumbling in Poland, but it's not too late for decisive action. The majority of Poles want to be part of the EU family. This comes with benefits and obligations, including the respect for the rule of law and the primacy of European law. For the sake of the Polish people, these fundamental democratic principles must be protected.”