Rule of law: MEPs travel to Poland to assess respect of EU values

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


An EP delegation will travel to Warsaw next week to look into the rule of law situation in Poland, in the framework of the ongoing Article 7 procedure.

Ten MEPs from the Civil Liberties and Constitutional Affairs committees will be in Poland from Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 February.

During their visit, in addition to long-standing concerns related to the rule of law, MEPs will look into institutional questions arising from the Polish Constitutional Court’s recent decision that national constitutional law takes primacy over the EU Treaties.

The delegation has requested to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński and the Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. They have also scheduled exchanges of views with representatives of political parties both in the Sejm and the Senate, as well as with the National Council for the Judiciary.

As the independence of the judiciary is one of the main concerns regarding rule of law in the country, MEPs will also have meetings with professional associations of judges, prosecutors and lawyers, individual judges and prosecutors affected by disciplinary or criminal proceedings, and former members of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Tribunal.

In order to gather civil society’s views about the state of democracy and the respect of fundamental rights and minorities, they will meet a wide array of NGOs working in the field of rule of law, justice, women’s rights, migration, and LGBTI rights. Finally, and in view of alleged risks to media freedom, they will hear from several media representatives. They will also look into the latest revelations over the use of the Pegasus spyware.

Members of the delegation

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs:

  • Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES)
  • Konstantinos Arvanitis (The Left, EL)
  • Lukas Mandl (EPP, AT)
  • Terry Reintke (Greens/EFA, DE)
  • Róża Thun und Hohenstein (Renew, PL)
  • Beata Kempa (ECR, PL)

Committee on Constitutional Affairs:

  • Othmar Karas (EPP, AT)
  • Gabriel Bischoff (S&D, DE)
  • Gerolf Annemans (ID, BE)
  • Daniel Freund (Greens/EFA, DE).

You can check here a detailed programme of the delegation.

Press conference in Warsaw

At the end of their visit, there will be a press conference with the co-chairs in the European Parliament Liaison Office in Warsaw, and remotely, on Wednesday 23 February at 14.15. Details on how to attend will be communicated closer to the date.

Background

In view of possible democratic backsliding in Poland and in particular due to the threat to judicial independence, the European Commission initiated in December 2017 an Article 7 procedure to address a possible risk of breach of EU common values. The Parliament has ever since repeatedly asked the Council to act and in September 2020 warned about the continuous deterioration of the situation in the country, pointing to “overwhelming evidence” of those breaches.

Following the October 2021 ruling by the Polish Constitutional, the Polish government’s challenge of the established primacy of EU law was added to Parliament’s long list of concerns. These include the powers to revise the constitution taken on by the Polish parliament since 2015, expedited legislative procedures and electoral law changes; the broad changes to the country’s judiciary, including appointments and disciplinary procedures; the situation of freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism; and the criminalisation of sexual education and the de facto ban on abortion.

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