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European Commission asked to activate Article 7 procedure against Poland

International human rights organisations have called the European Commission to take decisive measures in response to Poland’s “disregard” for the rule of law. Polish organisations, including the HFHR, have joined the call for action.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Open Society European Policy Institute, FIDH and Reporters without Borders, followed by more than 20 non-governmental organisations from Poland, have signed an open letter requesting the European Commission to launch the third stage of the rule of law procedure, which would mean the triggering of the measures under Article 7 of Treaty of the European Union.

Pursuant to Article 7, the Council of the European Union, acting on a proposal of e.g. the European Commission, may determine, by a majority of the four-fifths of its Member States, that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the fundamental values of the EU, including the rule of law. Article 7 also provides that the European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by the European Commission, may determine the existence of a “serious and persistent” breach by a Member State of fundamental values of the EU. Only after this step is completed, the Member States, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend a given state’s rights deriving from the treaties governing the functioning of the EU.

In December 2016, the European Commission adopted a second, complementary recommendation regarding the rule of law in Poland. According to the European Commission, there is still a systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland, which should be addressed as a matter of urgency (to find out more about the case, use this link).

Before the end of February, Poland should notify the European Commission of measures taken in order to comply with the Commission’s recommendations. So far, none of such recommendations has been followed. The recommendations called for the nomination of the three lawfully appointed judges of the Constitutional Tribunal elected in October 2015 and ensuring that a new president of the Tribunal is not appointed until the Constitutional Tribunal reviews the new laws on its organisation enacted in December 2016.

The open letter’s signatories wrote that “a recommendation from the Commission to activate Article 7 TEU is at this stage the only way to continue to hold Poland to account for its failure to respect its obligations under the Treaties”. The NGOs also emphasise that it “would send a strong signal to other Member States” that no one can undermine the founding values of the European Union without a strong response from the EU.

The signing organisations also note that recommending resort to the Article 7 TEU procedure will send “a strong signal to civil society in Poland that the Commission stands by its side in its fight for a society in which democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the other values protected under Article 2 TEU are upheld”.

The open letter to the European Commission may be read here.

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