Poland: Council has to “finally act” to protect minorities and the rule of law 

Stqarrija 
Is-sessjoni plenarja 
 
 

Aqsam din il-paġna ma' ħaddieħor: 

  • Continuing deterioration of judicial independence and the rule of law 
  • Council needs to resume the Article 7 procedure against Poland 
  • Call for a broader interpretation that should include all EU core principles 

Disrespect for judicial independence and the rights of LGBTI persons point to “overwhelming evidence” of breaches of EU values, Parliament says.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday with 513 votes to 148 and 33 abstentions, the European Parliament expresses concerns regarding the legislative and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary, and fundamental rights in Poland.

Discrimination against LGBTI

During Monday’s debate, MEPs seized the opportunity to discuss the case of certain local authorities declaring their territories “LGBTI-free zones”, and ask the Commission whether this may constitute unlawful discrimination in employment, referring to the Rete Lenford case.

In the adopted resolution, the EP strongly deplores both the “Polish Stonewall” mass arrest and subsequent treatment of 48 LGBTI activists on 7 August 2020, and the Polish Episcopate’s official position in favour of “conversion therapy”.

Stop democracy from backsliding

MEPs are deeply concerned that the situation has seriously deteriorated since the Article 7 procedure was initiated by the Commission in 2017. They call “on the Council and the Commission to refrain from narrowly interpreting the principle of the rule of law, and to use the procedure under Article 7(1) TEU to its full potential [...] for all the principles enshrined in Article 2 TEU”. Noting that the last hearing “was held as long ago as December 2018”, they urge the Council “to finally act [...] in the light of overwhelming evidence thereof”.

Quote

“The broad support for this report is the best response to the allegations about a 'leftist conspiracy'. What the Polish government has forgotten is that democracy is not about majority rule, but about respecting EU law, pluralism, the right to dissent and protecting minorities. Parliament has issued several resolutions on this subject and the Commission has launched four infringement procedures, yet the Polish authorities still refuse to respect European values and continue to operate in contempt of the European legal order. It is high time that the Council concludes the Article 7 proceedings in a meaningful manner”, said rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES). Watch the recording of the press conference (15.09).

Key issues

MEPs are deeply worried by

  • constitutional revision powers taken on by the parliament since 2015, expedited legislative procedures, as well as recent electoral law changes and elections organised during a public emergency;
  • broad changes to the country’s judiciary during the last few years, from the way appointments are made to disciplinary procedures;
  • the situation of freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism (and its impact in the recent presidential election), academic freedom, freedom of assembly and association, and the recent stigmatisation of NGOs as operators of foreign actors;
  • the de facto criminalisation of sexual education and the drastic limitation, coming close to a de facto ban, on abortion and emergency contraception, as well as hate speech, public discrimination, violence against women (and the announced withdrawal of Poland from the Istanbul Convention), domestic violence and intolerant behaviour against vulnerable groups.