Rule of law and democracy in Poland debated in Parliament for the fourth time
Persistent concerns about the rule of law and democracy in Poland were debated in the European Parliament on Wednesday. The debate followed a statement by European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans on the situation there.
Mr Timmermans recalled that the European Commission had recommended in July that the Polish government should respect the judgments passed by the Constitutional Tribunal, publish all its judgments and withdraw decisions that hamper its work.
“Unfortunately the Polish government’s reply has not announced any improvements”, he said. He considered it “regrettable” that some measures recently passed in Poland raised new concerns about the rule of law and the fundamental democratic principle of the separation of powers. He announced that the Commission would consider the situation in Poland again shortly.
In the debate, some political group representatives criticised Poland’s government for continuing to threaten democratic principles and European values. They asked what the Commission now intends to do, since it has formally established that there is a systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland and suggested triggering EU Treaty Article 7, which could lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the Council. Several said that that this debate was not “against” Poland but, on the contrary, expressed their support for Poles protesting in the streets against the erosion of their fundamental rights.
Other MEPs considered, on the contrary, that this debate should not have taken place, because it interfered with a country’s internal affairs and national sovereignty. Some denied that there were any problems with the rule of law, democracy or fundamental rights, including women rights, freedom of assembly or judicial independence, in Poland. They accused those who criticise Poland’s democratically elected government of ignorance and partiality. Some MEPs also said that criticism by the European Commission and “European elites’” of the Polish government would fuel anti-EU attitudes in the pro-European Polish society.
Wednesday’s debate was the fourth in a row. Parliament held its first debate on democracy in Poland, in the presence of its Prime Minister Beata Szydło, in January when the Commission started a “Rule of Law audit” procedure with regard to the situation there.
Click on the names of speakers below to view statements of behalf of political groups (VOD).
Frans TIMMERMANS, for the Commission (opening statement)
Janusz LEWANDOWSKI (EPP, PL)
Birgit SIPPEL (S&D, DE)
Ryszard Antoni LEGUTKO (ECR, PL)
Sophia IN 'T VELD (ALDE, NL)
Malin BJÖRK (GUE/NGL, SE)
Terry REINTKE (Green/EFA, DE)
Robert Jarosław IWASZKIEWICZ (EFDD, PL)
Michał MARUSIK (ENF, PL)
Frans TIMMERMANS for the Commission (closing statement)
Procedure Code: 2016/3030(RSP)
Procedure: Council and Commission statements followed by debate