European Commission First Vice-president Frans Timmermans has confirmed the EU executive is seeking to impose unprecedented sanctions on conservative Poland.
The 56-year-old insisted that use of Article 7 against Poland — which could see the country stripped of its EU voting rights but still subject to the bloc’s decrees — is a necessary response to the conservative Law and Justice Party government’s attempts to reform what it sees as a corrupt judicial system.
Timmermans alleges these reforms represent a “serious breach of the rule of law”.
“This is not just about the situation in Poland, this about the EU as a whole, about who we are. An issue with the rule of law in one member-state is of concern to all member-states,” the bureaucrat declared, making his position on the EU’s right to interfere in domestic matters perfectly clear.
Guy Verhofstadt, a former Prime Minister of Belgium and the European Parliament’s chosen Brexit co-ordinator, has claimed that democracy “is being dismantled” in Poland.
He has also demanded that Britain’s Theresa May join the EU establishment in condemning Warsaw, in order to demonstrate her continuing commitment to “European liberal democratic values”.
Democracy is being dismantled in #Poland & it's time to act. The EU must stand against the rule of law backsliding by PiS Government, which is contrary to EU values.This isn't about punishing Polish people, who deserve better from their Government https://t.co/23UQOMNnVm 🇵🇱🇺
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) December 19, 2017
Poland’s new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, responded by declaring that “Poland is as devoted to the rule of law as the rest of the EU,” adding: “judiciary reform is deeply needed.”
While Timmermans alleged Poland’s courts were being “politicised” by the Law and Justice Party’s reforms, Morawiecki took the time earlier in the week to pen an article explaining they are already politicised, having been devised during the dying days of the old Communist regime in order to protect certain vested interests.
“In the 1989 Roundtable Talks between Poland’s Communists and the democratic opposition, then-president General Wojciech Jaruzelski – the man who ran Poland’s martial law government for the Soviets – was allowed to nominate an entirely new bench of Communist-era judges to staff the post-communist courts,” he explained.
“These judges dominated our judiciary for the next quarter century. Some remain in place.
“To this day, an elite council of 25, dominated by 15 judges on the appellate level or above, nominates all judges including their own successors. No trial judge or elected official participates. The president may accept or reject the nominees. The system lends itself to nepotism and corruption.”
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) December 20, 2017
The Law and Justice Party’s Beata Mazurek has said she believes the European Commission’s actions against are not, in fact, motivated by high ideals, but “political”.
Indeed, Poland has fallen out of favour with the Brussels establishment since Law and Justice achieved the biggest parliamentary mandate of any Polish governing party since the fall of Communism when it was elected in 2015, by offering staunch opposition to the EU’s mandatory migrant quotas and publicly criticising its policies of mass migration and multiculturalism for having increased the threat of terrorism.
WATCH | Polish PM slams Europe's "lethargic" response to terror.
"Rise from your knees or you will be crying over your children every day." pic.twitter.com/A3bNyDxbtz
— Leave.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) May 27, 2017
Article 7 sanctions cannot be imposed without the say so European Council, however, and the EU establishment’s ability to carry a vote through that body is doubtful.
The Prime Minister of Hungary — another conservative bastion against mass migration and European federalism — has previously made it clear that he would veto any attempts to punish the Poles, and Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén reiterated that position today, calling the Commission’s actions “unprecedented and astounding.”
The Hungarian said it was “unacceptable that Brussels is putting pressure on sovereign member states and arbitrarily punishing democratically elected governments,” calling the Article 7 proposal an “unjust political procedure” which “seriously damages Poland’s sovereignty.”
With its own battles to fight against the EU, it seems unlikely that Hungary will be persuaded to change its mind when the sanctions are put to the vote.