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EU ministers to again probe Poland over rule of law?

PR dla Zagranicy
Grzegorz Siwicki 05.07.2018 16:15
European Union member states may hold another hearing into Poland’s alleged rule-of-law breaches as part of a disciplinary procedure that the government in Warsaw says is unjustified, Poland’s PAP news agency reported on Thursday.
Photo: Activedia/pixabay.com/CC0 Creative CommonsPhoto: Activedia/pixabay.com/CC0 Creative Commons

The agency cited an EU diplomat as saying that such a hearing would be held in September, but it also cited Polish diplomats as denying that the decision has already been made.

EU ministers in late June held an unprecedented, three-hour hearing focusing on concerns that the governing conservatives have eroded the rule of law in Poland.

PAP on Thursday cited an EU diplomat it did not as saying that representatives from member states have decided that another such hearing will be held in September as part of a procedure against Poland under Article 7 of the EU Treaty.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, in December took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over controversial changes to the judicial system by the country’s ruling conservatives.

The move meant that the EU’s executive wanted the bloc’s member states to declare that the rule of law in Poland was under threat. That could potentially pave the way for sanctions being imposed on Poland.

The Polish government has since moved to modify the disputed legal changes.

But the European Union’s executive last month requested that the EU General Affairs Council -- which is mainly made up of the European affairs ministers from all member states -- hold a formal hearing amid concerns over the rule of law in the country.

According to the EU diplomat cited by PAP on Thursday, 15 countries have now supported the idea of probing Poland at another hearing.

Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia opposed the plan during a meeting of ambassadors from EU countries in Brussels on Wednesday, while diplomats representing the remaining countries did not take the floor, according to the EU diplomat cited by PAP.

But a Polish diplomat said on Thursday, according to PAP: "No decisions were made at yesterday's meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the EU countries (CoRepEr). There was only an exchange of views about [such] a hearing." PAP did not name the diplomat.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was quoted as saying ahead of last month's hearing that the government in Warsaw had the right to reform the country's judiciary and that it was "not doing anything wrong.”

Czaputowicz in mid-June said that Poland would "emphasise [its] right to carry out reforms and that these are compliant with EU standards."

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, on Monday opened a fresh legal case against Warsaw over its reform of the Supreme Court, saying that new laws on the Polish top court “undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges."

Czaputowicz said in response to the move: “We are of the opinion that the European Court of Justice is the institution empowered to rule on legal disputes concerning EU law. We shall be arguing before the Court that a reform of the judicial system is within the competences of individual member states and that the justification presented by the Commission is incorrect."


Source: PAP

tags: Article 7
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