- Polish president signs overhaul of Consitutional Tribunal
- Foreign minister calls EU rule-of-law procedure into question
Poland’s standoff with the European Union over democratic values escalated after Polish President Andrzej Duda over the weekend signed into law an overhaul of the country’s Constitutional Tribunal that failed to address EU concerns.
The European Commission, the EU executive in Brussels, last week gave Poland three months to respond to recommendations on restoring the court’s ability to effectively review legislation, moving ahead with its first-ever probe into the rule-of-law of a member country. The tribunal’s revamp, designed by the ruling Law & Justice party and signed into law by Duda over the weekend, fell short of meeting recommendations from Europe’s democracy watchdog, the Venice Commission.
“The main issues which threaten the rule of law in Poland have not been resolved,” EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters in Brussels on Monday. “We continue to be ready to engage in a constructive dialog with the Polish authorities.”
Law & Justice won power in last year’s elections after promising to stand up to Brussels and pursue more nationalistic policies, setting the EU’s biggest eastern member on a collision course with Western allies. The stand-off, which can ultimately lead to Poland losing its vote on European laws and political decisions, has weighed on Polish assets and undercut investment, while prompting S&P Global ratings to downgrade the sovereign.
The overhaul fails to force the government to implement past tribunal rulings, including one from March which ruled an earlier revamp of the court unconstitutional, as well as Duda’s refusal to swear in three justices lawfully picked by the previous parliament.
Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski called the EU’s rule-of-law procedure into question, saying that Brussels procedures are going beyond what’s written into European treaties.
“We told the European Commission that this is their internal procedure, which we won’t reply to,” he told radio RMF FM on Monday. “We’re a sovereign country.”
The EU is founded on a common set of values, such as respect for the rule of law, the commission says. Its procedure for checking a member nation’s democracy is firmly anchored in EU treaties and was welcomed by national governments in December 2014.