EUC AT WAR WITH POLAND?
By: ECLJ/Patryk Regalski
Poland has just re-elected President Andrzej Duda, a member of the conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), for a second five-year term. A re-election that received a rather cool welcome in the European Union (EU).
For several years now, a conflict has been going on between the European Commission (EUC), EU’s main body, and the PiS, the Polish majority party, over the issue of the “rule of law”. However, most of the media merely report comminatory statements from each side, without really explaining the substance of the problem.
What is the “rule of law” we hear so much about? It is a legal concept which means that any person or institution is subject to the laws, and these laws must themselves respect the higher fundamental standards: The Constitution and international treaties.
This respect is usually ensured by what is known as “constitutionality review”: judges check that the laws or rules are in conformity with fundamental rights and the Constitution. The new rule must respect the “fundamental rights”, the rights that are held as the most important. The advantage of this system is that, in principle, it prevents regulations or laws contrary to fundamental rights from being enacted or applied.
However, this control is entrusted to a few judges, which does not prevent them to make error or to be arbitrary; particularly because “fundamental rights” are often very vaguely defined.
The EU promotes not only rights but even vaguer “fundamental values.” It is precisely on the interpretation of what constitutes the “fundamental values of the European Union” that lies the dispute between Poland and the European Commission. The European Commission accuses Poland of undermining the Rule of law and the fundamental values of the EU because of the various justice reforms passed by the Polish Parliament.
What are these reforms? What are these values of the European Union? Is there an ideological conflict between both sides or a genuine infringement of the fundamental rights of Poles that justifies the Commission’s legal action? In order to answer these questions, we offer you three articles recently written by a fine connoisseur of law and Poland, Mr Patryk Regalski.
The first article “The European Commission’s attack on the reform of the judiciary in Poland: summary, chronology and issues at stake” discusses the European Commission’s decision to initiate serious legal proceedings against Poland which could, in theory, lead to its exclusion from the EU.
The second article “The Reform of the Polish Judicial Council and the Independence of the Judiciary” explains the content of the internal reforms that have taken place in Poland in recent years in order to better understand issues that are above all internal to Poland.
The third article “Poland: Ideological Blackmail from the European Commission” addresses an aspect of the ideological conflict behind the legal conflict. Unfortunately, the European Commission is intervening against “LGBT ideology free zones” in Poland, threatening to cut the cohesion funds reallocated as part of the fight against the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.