European Commission’s enters dialogue with Poland on rule of law

After a break in the dialogue between EU and Poland on the rule of law in the country, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans visited Poland last Monday to discuss the situation.
“This was the first time we met in actual discussions,” he disclosed at a press briefing in Brussels yesterday. “We really have a genuine dialogue now,” he said and expected that Poland shortly will propose changes in its legislation which EU considers contradicts rule of law principles.

Without entering into any details of his discussions in Poland, he repeated what he said at a press conference there on Monday. “We don’t dispute Poland’s right to reform its judiciary system but we expect that it’s done in a way that respects the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.”

The Polish minister of foreign affairs, Jacek Czaputowicz, said that his country believes that the judiciary reforms are consistent with EU standards and that a “compromise” solution with EU is possible to avoid a situation where EU would have to invoke article 7(1) of the EU treaty.

Last December the Commission decided to start legal proceedings against Poland to protect the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in the country, after what it described as almost two years of failed dialogue.

Among the measures was a proposal to the council to adopt a decision under article 7(1), which might lead to the suspension of voting rights in the Council.

Timmermans said yesterday that he would not describe the foreseen outcome of the dialogue with Poland as a “compromise”. In the meantime the controversial legislation has already entered into force in Poland.

An example is the amendment of the law of the Institute of National Remembrance (“Holocaust law”), which criminalises an open debate on crimes committed in Poland during Nazi occupation. The amendment has aroused protests around the world.

The Brussels Times asked the Commission if it is also part of the legislation which needs to be changed to respect the rule of law. Timmermans declined to respond but a Commission spokesperson replied that “this is not part of the rule of law discussions with Poland”.

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