EU demands Polish sanctions

EU demands Polish sanctions
The EU has paved the way for an unprecedented collective rebuke over Poland’s authoritarianism.
The European Commission is expected to launch an injunction against a “serious breach” of the bloc’s common values and the rule of law.
Poland’s parliament this month backed rules that would force around 40 per cent of Supreme Court judges to retire and give MPs control over a council that decides court appointments. If signed into law by President Andrzej Duda, the rules would put at serious risk the independence of “all parts of the Polish judiciary”, according to the Venice Commission, which advises the Council of Europe’s human rights constitutional law study group.
Germany and France are expected to back the commission’s position during a vote of member states in 2018, in what would represent a dramatic escalation in tensions over the requirements of EU membership. An EU diplomat said the bloc was crossing “the Rubicon”.
Poland’s nationalist disregard for Brussels has become a crucial factor in organising the eurozone, migration reform to the EU’s next €1-trillion long-term budget, whose largest net beneficiary is Poland.
If approved by member states next year, the Article 7 decision would largely be a political warning that could lead to serious sanctions, including the loss of voting rights.
Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has promised to block any such punishment.
Until now the commission has been reticent about issuing a warning, which requires a supermajority, for fear of bolstering support for the nationalist Jaroslaw Kaczynski (pictured), the Eurosceptic leader of Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party.
After PiS won the 2015 election, it packed a different court, the Constitutional Tribunal, with party nominees, refused to appoint legally elected judges to the panel, and blocked publication of its rulings. In July 2016, the European Commission recommended remedial measures, which Warsaw dismissed as interference in its domestic affairs. A year later, the commission expressed alarm about a law empowering the justice minister to remove and appoint the heads of ordinary courts. The commission at that point made its first warning of disciplinary action.
“Will [voting for the measure] have the right effect? That is the question,” said an EU source told the Financial Times. “When you do anything like that then Kaczynski gets more votes. But we have no choice. We need to enforce more European law. We’ve given them long enough.”
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s Law and Justice. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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