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Poland: EP unites to denounce ‘serious, sustained and systemic’ breach of rule of law. Time to act!

Date

17 Sep 2020

Sections

InfoSociety

All the pro-democracy forces in the European Parliament united today and overwhelmingly supported the report drafted by the S&D MEP and civil liberties committee chair Juan Fernando López Aguilar, which calls on member states to finally declare that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law and European values by Poland.  

The fact-based report gives a detailed overview of how the PiS (Law and Justice Party) government has consistently undermined the rule of law and fundamental rights in Poland since 2015, taking advantage of the Council’s inaction. The S&Ds call on member states to finally take the Article 7 (1) procedure seriously, and to introduce an effective conditionality mechanism in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework that protects the EU’s budget when the rule of law is breached.

S&D MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the rule of law in Poland, and chair of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:

“For five years, the Law and Justice Party has been waging an all-out war against the rule of law and fundamental rights in Poland. The unprecedented changes to the country's legal system are drastically undermining the rule of law and separation of powers, with far-reaching consequences not only for the Polish judiciary but for the entire EU project. As shocking as it is, they took control of the Polish judiciary in open defiance of the law, Polish constitution and the courts, even ignoring rulings from the European Court of Justice!

“But the rule of law and independence of judiciary are not our only concern. My resolution, which was overwhelmingly adopted today, deals with other aspects of Polish democracy challenged by PiS actions, notably restrictions and attacks on fundamental rights and liberties, particularly regarding political pluralism, media freedom and the protection of minorities.

“There are no more excuses for the Council not to act. The Article 7 (1) procedure in relation to Poland must finally be taken to the next level, while at the same time its scope should be extended to include the state of democracy and respect for fundamental rights. The formal hearings should already resume at the next meeting of general affairs ministers on 22 September.”

Birgit Sippel MEP, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, added:

“Although totally incompatible with EU laws and values, PiS actions have until now been met with total indifference from the member states in the Council. Despite the launch of the Article 7 procedure in 2017 by the European Commission, we’ve seen no progress. Intentionally or unintentionally, this standstill is a further encouragement for the PiS to continue down this current anti-democratic path.

“Over the summer, the PiS government has been continuing its attempts to dismantle the Supreme Court, while at the same time going after independent judges critical of PiS judiciary reforms. Moreover, we have witnessed the escalation of hate speech and police brutality against LGBTI people, with the arbitrary and simply unacceptable arrests of 48 LGBTI activists defending their rights in August. We are also very concerned by the planned law to stigmatise non-governmental organisations and by the announcement that Poland will withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, which would be a serious step backwards in the fight against gender-based violence. 

“If the member states continue to just watch, Europe will lose its credibility as a continent of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights! Now member states have a chance to act and they should not blow that chance. We need an efficient and binding conditionality mechanism, which protects the EU’s budget when the rule of law is breached.”

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