One year ago, under its EU Rule of Law Framework, the European Commission began a dialogue with the Polish government designed to determine whether there was a systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland and prevent its escalation. In the course of the process it then issued two rounds of recommendations to the government — in July and December 2016. The Polish government has largely ignored those recommendations, and has rather attempted to further restrict the rule of law and human rights, including media freedom, freedom of assembly and women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
Now, the procedure has reached its endpoint, as the Polish government has consistently refused to comply with the European Commission’s recommendations under the Rule of Law Framework. The Commission issued its last recommendation to Poland in December and set Poland a two months deadline to respond. The deadline was set to expire on 21 February 2017. After this date, the Commission will have to examine Poland’s response and decide on the next steps. These could include resort to the procedure laid down in Article 7 TEU, a mechanism meant to address situations where there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the values protected under Article 2 TEU and which could potentially lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights within the Council of the EU.
– The European Commission should pursue enforcement action against the government of Poland under the Article 7 of the EU treaty, as the government continues to undermine the rule of law,the letter says. The letter was initiated by Amnesty International, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the Open Society European Policy Institute and Reporters Without Borders, and signed by 71 supporting NGOs. The European Union and its member states need to show resolve to halt Poland’s backsliding from the common values of the EU, the organizations said.
The rule of law and human rights in Poland have been under sustained attack since the current government came into power in October 2015. In response to these attacks, the European Commission activated, for the first time since its creation in March 2014, the EU Rule of Law Framework, (see FIDH press release) a new mechanism which is meant to address threats to the rule of law in an EU member state before they escalate to a level where there would be a risk of breach of EU values as enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).