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Situation in Poland discussed in EU

Prior to the upcoming session of the General Affairs Council, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Liberties have sent an open letter to the Council’s members, commenting on the recent events in Poland.

The General Affairs Council is an EU body which coordinates the preparations for the European Council summits. A discussion about current developments in Poland has been included on the agenda of the session that is to take place on Monday 25 September. This is already the second such discussion over recent months, the previous one was held in May 2017.

In their letter to the members of the Council, the HFHR and Liberties point to the still ongoing constitutional crisis and unfinished reform of the justice system. The organisations also note that attempts to undermine the principle of the rule of law affect also other aspects of a democratic state ruled by law: the independence of the media and operations of non-governmental organisations.

President’s veto does not end justice reform

President’s veto on the National Judiciary Council Act and Supreme Court Act has not put an end to attempts at reforming the justice system. On Monday, the President is expected to present his proposals for the reform of courts.

“Proposals of new laws are to be announced on Monday 25 September; most likely, they will be sent to the Sejm right away. The way in which the new draft laws were drafted indicates that the ruling majority will maintain the practice of implementing key reforms without a public debate”, reads the letter.

Media and NGOs

Signatories of the letter also note planned changes to the functioning of the media and civil society organisations. According to the organisations, the announced changes to the functioning of private media outlets and the creation of the National Freedom Institute – Center for the Development of Civil Society will add to the threats to the proper operation of mechanisms of a democratic state ruled by law.

Further EU actions

The non-governmental organisations emphasise that the dialogue which the European Commission and Polish Government have been engaged in for over 18 months is yet to bring a successful outcome. Even more worryingly, Poland has not only failed to implement the Commission’s recommendations on the rule of law but also taken many other actions that pose a threat to a democratic state ruled by law.

The signatories call on the EU Member States to protect democratic principles on which the Community is based. “Mindful of the wrath this letter may bring on us from the Polish Government, we call the Member States of the European Union to defend fundamental values and principles introduced to safeguard the rights of all Europeans. With a view to the well-being of the Polish people, we urge Member States to launch the Article 7 TEU procedure”, reads the letter.

The organisations’ letter can be read here.

A summary of the situation of Polish civil society organizations can be accessed here.

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