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Parliament will closely monitor the European Commission’s follow-up work on the situation of the rule of law in Poland.

Following the Commission’s decision to trigger Article 7 of the EU Treaty to determine whether Poland is at risk of a serious breach of EU values, Civil Liberties MEPs have elected the Committee Chair Claude Moraes (S&D, UK) as the standing LIBE Rapporteur in view of the consent procedure. Moraes will be responsible for monitoring and reporting back to Parliament on the work of the Commission and the Council. 

"This is not about criticism of Poland but about us demanding that the rights accorded to Polish citizens by their membership of the European Union are protected. It is crucial to ensure that the Parliament continues to monitor the Commission's assessment of whether there has been a clear breach of EU fundamental principles and values”, Moraes said.

"We need a clear and unambiguous position, from the Parliament, the Commission and Council: the rule of law must be upheld in all EU countries”, he added.

On 20 December, the European Commission proposed activating Article 7 (1) of the EU Treaty. Parliament backed on 1 March the Commission’s proposal, calling on the Council to swiftly determine whether Poland is at risk of a serious breach of EU values and if so, to propose solutions. The European Parliament would have to give its consent and the Civil Liberties Committee would be in charge of initiating such a procedure.

Procedure

Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which has so far never been used, provides a mechanism for preventing breaches of EU values and deciding sanctions against the member state concerned, should they occur.

Under Article 7(1), and following an initiative by one third of member states, by the European Parliament or by the EU Commission, the EU Council of Ministers may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of EU values by a member state. The Council decision needs the support of a majority of four fifths of its members and the consent of the European Parliament. In order to prevent an actual breach, it may also address specific recommendations to the country concerned.

 Under Article 7(2), an actual breach of EU values can be determined by the European Council (EU heads of state or governments) on a proposal by a third of EU member states or the EU Commission. In this case, the European Council needs to decide by unanimity and the Parliament needs to give its consent.

Article 7(3) provides for possible sanctions, such as the suspension of voting rights in the Council of Ministers.