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Poland asks Brussels to waive sanctions for erosion of the rule of law | International

by Isabella Walker
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The new Polish government has called on the European Commission and EU member states to stop sanctioning proceedings against their country for undermining the rule of law. To convince them, the Justice Minister of the liberal executive led by Donald Tusk presented on Tuesday to the Council of the EU the reform plan with which he intends to dismantle the attacks on justice by the ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS, for example) in Polish) and restore independence to judges and magistrates. And the reaction was very positive: “I think it is a realistic plan that should restore the independence of the judiciary. This is also an objective of the Commission. The action plan [presentado] “It is a step in the direction that could lead to the closure of Article Seven,” said Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova, responsible for the defense of the rule of law.

These words from Jourova came in a joint appearance with the Polish Minister of Justice, Adam Bodnar; the Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib ―who in turn presides over the Council of the EU― and the Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, a staging with a clear objective: Warsaw’s relationship with the institutions of the Union. They entered into a completely different phase from that experienced with Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s party in government. This mention of “article seven” refers to the maximum sanctioning procedure of the community treaties, which can also end with the suspension of the voting rights of the punished country in the Council of the EU. This is what is commonly called “the bubble” in the Brussels bubble. nuclear button.

“I’m going to explain myself [al resto de socios y la Comisión Europea] that if we implement the plan, Poland should not have the Article 7 procedure opened. There is no need if all of us in Poland are absolutely committed to restoring the rule of law,” Bodnar noted as he arrived at the meeting.

The liberal coalition won legislative elections last October and removed from power the ultra-conservatives who had governed since 2015. During this period they undertook a series of changes that undermined the independence of the Polish judicial system, such as the creation of a sanctions chamber of judges, or the irregular appointment of judges to the Constitutional Court, a body which subsequently ruled that the EU Treaties violate the Polish Constitution. All this led the European Commission to launch this sanctioning procedure in 2017 and send it to the Council of the EU, where it has not been completed so far. The process is the same one that Hungary has started, also to attack the rule of law, and which not even the member states stop promoting.

Now the new Polish Executive is asking for the process to be interrupted and the Commission sees the request favorably, even if it asks for results. “There is a lot of work to do. The minister [Bodnar] has presented a series of laws that will have to be passed in Poland and that’s when you realize how long the list of infractions is. All these problematic issues need to be resolved,” Jourova said. “The action plan is important, but also how it will be implemented.”

The Commission’s Chief Justice, who recently traveled to Warsaw to meet Bodnar, also appreciates the Polish government’s plans: “There were many positive comments during the meeting […]. We have already seen some decisions. It’s not just a matter of plan. There are some decisions to go further with several concrete measures, such as participation in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office,” Reynders said.

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If the reforms that the Tusk executive intends to implement go ahead, Warsaw could not only see the Article Seven sanctioning procedure revoked without sanctions, but could also start receiving resources from the European Recovery Fund, which has so far not been perceived. The European Commission asked the government for judicial reforms to approve its plan and have access to that money, 59.8 billion euros in subsidies and credits. However, these reforms have not yet seen the light of day. The liberal coalition faces, among other difficulties, opposition from the country’s president, the ultra-conservative Andrezj Duda, who has the power to veto legislation. If you finally overcome the obstacles, the money will probably flow. According to Polish media, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will meet Tusk in Poland this Friday. The German politician will cross the country to Ukraine, where she will travel with Alexander De Croo, the Belgian prime minister.

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