EU Says Poland Must Act to Resolve Threats to Rule of Law

  • Democracy is more than parliamentary majority, Juncker says
  • EU is stepping up unprecedented probe of the rule of law

Poland must restore the ability of its highest court to effectively review legislation, the European Commission said, stepping up its unprecedented probe into how rule of law functions in a European Union member.

The EU’s executive said that while it was in “constructive discussions” with Poland and held meetings with authorities on May 24, it remained concerned about the Constitutional Tribunal’s ability to review legislation after an overhaul by the ruling Law & Justice party. It also expressed misgivings because President Andrzej Duda hasn’t sworn in judges chosen by the previous parliament and the government hasn’t implemented its rulings.

“Despite these meetings and further contacts, the Polish government has still not taken the concrete steps needed to address the Commission’s concerns in a satisfactory way and thereby resolve the issue,” the commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

By sending the assessment to Poland, the EU’s executive is taking a further step leading, in a worst-case scenario, toward potential sanctions against the country of 38 million people. The dispute, triggered after Law & Justice made it more difficult for the tribunal to strike down laws in December, has grown into the worst standoff between Poland and the EU since the ex-communist country joined in 2004. It’s also weighed on Polish assets and helped prompt the country’s first-ever credit downgrade, by S&P Global ratings, this year.

Civil Society

The government should sit down with opposition forces and come up with a compromise to end the constitutional crisis as quickly as possible, Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament, said in a statement.

“Democracy is more than a parliamentary majority,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in Brussels Wednesday. “It’s also about civil society.”

While Poland last week said it was nearing a deal with the European Commission on resolving the rule of law probe, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said Wednesday he was “surprised and saddened” by the decision of the EU executive to send the assessment. He added that the government “will defend Polish interests.” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo didn’t address the issue and took no questions at a press briefing she held with her Estonian counterpart, Taavi Roivas.

The zloty weakened 0.2 percent against the euro at 4:05 p.m. in Warsaw. The currency has lost 3.1 percent against the euro this year, underperforming its regional peers.

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