The EU executive Commissioner and First vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans launched an unprecedented process, triggering Article 7 of Lisbon Treaty to suspend Poland’s voting rights in the European Union after two years of dispute over judicial reforms that Brussels claims undermine Polish judiciary independence.
Polish government has three month ahead of them to abolish the judiciary reforms to avoid the so called “nuclear” opinion to lose voting rights within the EU. The visit of the incumbent Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Brussels is forseen in January, however so far Polish government refused to bend to EU demands, insisting on their sovereign right to carve laws. The move of the executive is largely interpreted as ‘anti-Polish’, and there are fears it will only deepen the growing gap between Brussels and Warsaw.
Many experts interpret the Commission’s selective application of Lisbon Treaty articles to fact of the growing longng of Poland for sovreignty, led by nationalist government of ight-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.
6.09.2017. Brussels. Today the Commission is presenting four progress reports on actions taken under the European Agenda on Migration to better manage migration and protect the EU’s external borders. The package outlines progress made in the EU’s relocation and resettlement schemes and also reports on the roll-out of the European Border and Coast Guard and the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, as well as on the progress made under the Partnership Framework on Migration and along the Central Mediterranean route.
“All EU actors have worked hard together to manage migration flows, to protect our external borders and to support the frontline Member States. We’re on the right track and the results can be seen on the ground. However, the challenges and risk factors of migration remain. So we must continue to improve our work to save lives, to put in place safe and legal pathways for those who deserve protection and to return those who have no right to stay,” – European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said.
“When we speak of migration, we often say that we are facing a complex challenge, but we should never forget that we are dealing with the stories of hundreds of thousands of human beings. We are advancing towards a system to jointly and sustainably manage, in full respect of human rights, a situation which requires strong partnership, sharing of responsibilities, solidarity, and sustained commitment. We are finally on the right path – we need to continue to work with consistency and determination,” – EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said.
“When Europe works together in a spirit of responsibility and solidarity, we make progress and achieve concrete results, both inside and outside the EU. We also see intra-EU solidarity: with the relocation programme delivering results and almost all registered applicants having been relocated from Greece and Italy. This success now needs to be sustained on all these fronts,” – Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said.
The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland by sending a Letter of Formal Notice, following the publication in the Polish Official Journal of the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation on Friday 28 July. The Polish authorities have one month to reply to the Letter of Formal Notice.
“The Commission’s hand is still extended to the Polish authorities, in the hope of a constructive dialogue.” – said the First Vice-President Frans Timmermans in a letter to the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs reiterating the invitation to him and the Polish Minister of Justice for a meeting in Brussels at their earliest convenience in order to relaunch the dialogue. Formal Notice requests the Polish Government to reply within one month. After examining Poland’s reply, or if no observations have been submitted within the prescribed time-limit, the Commission may issue a Reasoned Opinion, the second stage of the infringement procedure.
The Commission’s key legal concern identified in the law on the organisation of ordinary courts relates to the discrimination on the basis of gender due to the introduction of a different retirement age for female judges (60 years) and male judges (65 years). This is contrary to Article 157 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Directive 2006/54 on gender equality in employment.
In the Letter of Formal Notice, the Commission also raises concerns that by giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, as well as to dismiss and appoint Court Presidents, the independence of Polish courts will be undermined (see Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) in combination with Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).
The new rules allow the Minister of Justice to exert influence on individual ordinary judges though, in particular, the vague criteria for the prolongation of their mandates thereby undermining the principle of irremovability of judges. While decreasing the retirement age, the law allows judges to have their mandate extended by the Minister of Justice for up to ten years for female judges and five years for male judges. Also, there is no time-frame for the Minister of Justice to make a decision on the extension of the mandate, allowing him to retain influence over the judges concerned for the remaining time of their judicial mandate.
“The Commission’s hand is still extended to the Polish authorities, in the hope of a constructive dialogue.” – said the First Vice-President Frans Timmermans sent a letter to the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs reiterating the invitation to him and the Polish Minister of Justice for a meeting in Brussels at their earliest convenience in order to relaunch the dialogue. As Timmermans underlined in the context of the Rule of Law dialogue. Formal Notice requests the Polish Government to reply within one month. After examining Poland’s reply, or if no observations have been submitted within the prescribed time-limit, the Commission may issue a Reasoned Opinion, the second stage of the infringement procedure.
The Commission substantiates its grave concerns on the planned reform of the judiciary in Poland in a Rule of Law Recommendation addressed to the Polish authorities. In the Commission’s assessment, this reform amplifies the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland already identified in the rule of law procedure started by the Commission in January 2016. The Commission requests the Polish authorities to address these problems within one month.
The Commission asks the Polish authorities notably not to take any measure to dismiss or force the retirement of Supreme Court judges. If such a measure is taken, the Commission stands ready to immediately trigger the Article 7(1)procedure – a formal warning by the EU that can be issued by four fifths of the Member States in the Council of Ministers.
The Commission also decides to launch an infringement proceeding against Poland for breaches of EU law. The College will immediately send a Letter of Formal Notice once the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation is published.
At the same time, the Commission recalls its offer to pursue a constructive dialogue with the Polish Government.
“The Commission is determined to defend the rule of law in all our Member States as a fundamental principle on which our European Union is built. An independent judiciary is an essential precondition for membership in our Union. The EU can therefore not accept a system which allows dismissing judges at will. Independent courts are the basis of mutual trust between our Member States and our judicial systems. If the Polish government goes ahead with undermining the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Poland, we will have no other choice than to trigger Article 7″ – President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
“Our Recommendations to the Polish authorities are clear. It is time to restore the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal and to either withdraw the laws reforming the judiciary or bring them in line with the Polish Constitution and with European standards on judicial independence. Polish courts like the courts of all Member States are called upon to provide an effective remedy in case of violations of EU law, in which case they act as the “judges of the Union” and must comply with the requirements of the independence of the judiciary in line with the Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights” – First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said.
“We want to resolve these issues together in a constructive way. The Commission’s hand remains extended to the Polish authorities for dialogue, and we welcome any steps to amend these laws in line with our Recommendations” – Timmermans concluded.
The government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo passes through period of turbulence with the EU, having disagreements of a range of issues, including EU open door migrant policy. Not the least factor in upsetting the relations between the EU and Poland as the member-state, was the endorsement of Donald Tusk as EU Council president against the advice of incumbent government. Tusk is widely regarded as a ‘transmitter’ of Brussels will onto Poland, without consideration of Polish national interests. The move officiated a start of confrontational politics against Poland. (Photo: president Tusk helping president Juncker with his jacket. Courtesy of Dominika Cosic).
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Sameh Shoukry attended a number of meetings with high officials in Brussels, exchanging views on illegal immigration and security. Shoukry clearly rejected the set up of refugee/migrant camps in Egypt.
Meeting press after the meeting Shukry underlined that his country is ready to co-operate with the EU on issues of illegal migration and security, however he is not looking for any specific agreement on the matter.
Minister Shoukry reviewed the considerable efforts carried out by Egypt in fighting illegal immigration, conceaving a national committee to combat it, however he pointed out that there should be understaning for treating the route causes of the problem.
These meetings took place on the sidelines of the Foreign Affairs Council that is expected also to determine projects that Egypt aspires to implement in cooperation with the EU.
Shoukry met with EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans and EU commissioner for migration and home affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, reminding that no illegal migration boat left Egypt since September 2016.
The minister’s talks with the EU commissioner addressed the Egyptian point of view towards the issue of illegal immigration, the EU commissioner said that Egypt is an essential part of European security.
The European Commission launched consultancies with the EU member states on whether to take further action against Poland in an ongoing dispute over the rule of law, according to diplomatic sources.
The European Commission criticises the Polish government, accusing of undermining democratic checks and balances, namely through its overhaul of Poland’s constitutional court.
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has refused to follow EU recommendations based on Venice Commission opinion, claiming that the Commission is transgressing its remit in instructing a democratically elected government with a large parliamentary majority.
First Vice President Frans Timmermans told his Commission colleagues at their weekly meeting on Wednesday he wanted to take the Polish case to other EU states, officials confirmed. However with support for Polish government, arriving from Hungary, the task of Timmermans becomes increasingly complicated, risking to lay news divides between West and East EU member-states.