Rule of law and democracy in Poland at risk: Parliament ready for next steps
- Fundamental European values are at risk in Poland, MEPs say
- EU Article 7 procedure should be launched to prevent a breach of the rule of law
- Procedure may lead to suspension of Poland’s EU Council voting rights
Parliament takes formal steps to trigger the first stage of the Article 7 procedure regarding Poland.
MEPs believe that the situation in Poland represents a “clear risk of a serious breach” of the European values, including the rule of law, enshrined in the EU Treaty. Parliament decided by 438 votes to 152 with 71 abstentions to prepare a formal request that the Council activate the preventive mechanism provided for in Article 7.1. If the risk persists and the Polish authorities refuse to comply with the EU recommendations, the procedure might lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the Council.
Parliament voiced specific concerns about the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights. The resolution calls on the Polish authorities to uphold the common European values listed in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and in the Polish Constitution. It urges Poland:
- not to proceed the new laws unless they fully guarantee the independence of the judiciaryto implement all EU Commission and Venice Commission recommendations in full,
- to comply with the EU Court of Justice order to “immediately suspend large-scale logging” in the ancient Białowieża forest,
- to respect the right of freedom of assembly,
- to strongly condemn the “xenophobic and fascist march that took place in Warsaw” on Saturday, 11 November 2017, and
- to take a firm stand on women’s rights, by providing free and accessible contraception without discrimination and making emergency contraception available without medical prescription.
Under Parliament’s Rules of Procedure (Rule 83), the Civil Liberties Committee will now need to draw up a “reasoned proposal”, the document required to call on the Council to trigger the rule of law mechanism in response to a “clear risk of a serious breach” of European values by the Polish authorities.
This is only the second time that the European Parliament has taken formal steps to call on the Council to start the Article 7 procedure. The first was taken in May 2017 with respect to Hungary. The procedure is still under way.
Parliament has held five debates and voted three resolutions (including this one) since January 2016 with regard to democracy and the rule of law in Poland.
The dialogue between the EU Commission and the Polish authorities is conducted under the “rule of law” procedure initiated in January 2016.
The next Venice Commission opinion on Poland is expected in December.
Procedure: Statements from the Council and the Commission with resolution