EPP President Joseph Daul speaking in Warsaw. Photo: Facebook/Joseph Daul
EPP President Joseph Daul speaking in Warsaw. Photo: Facebook/Joseph Daul

European tragedy – the collapse of Poland's Rule of law

ESI paper: Poland's deepening crisis – When the rule of law dies in Europe (14 December 2019)

ESI newsletter: How the rule of law dies … is this possible inside the EU? (16 December 2019)

ESI newsletter: Tolstoy, Causes, Poland and the Aegean (15 April 2019)

ESI newsletter: Najbardziej niezbezpieczny polityk w Polsce – spuścizna Junkera (4 April 2019)

ESI newsletter: Poland's most dangerous politician – Juncker's legacy (27 March 2019)

ESI-Batory paper: Under Siege – Why Polish courts matter for Europe (22 March 2019)

Legal opinion: The disciplinary system for judges in Poland – The case for infringement proceedings (22 March 2019)

ESI-Batory paper: European tragedy – the collapse of Poland's Rule of law (29 May 2018)

No member state of the EU has ever gone as far in subjugating its courts to executive control as the current Polish government has done. The Polish case is therefore a test whether it is possible to create a Soviet-style justice system in an EU-member state; a system where the control of courts, prosecutors and judges lies with the executive and a single party.

Eugeniusz Smolar Eugeniusz Smolar

June 2018: Broad support for first ESI-Batory proposal

Lech Walesa. Photo: MEDEF - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10010548
Lech Walesa

Statement by Lech Wałęsa concerning the Supreme Court: There is no freedom without the rule of law (1 June 2018):

"The violation of the independence of Polish courts threatens very negative consequences, for Poland, but also for the entire European Union. The EU, which is the anchor of the Polish raison d'etat, cannot function without free courts in each member state. Just as in 1980 there could not be freedom without solidarity, so today there cannot be freedom without the rule of law!"

"We believe that the time has come for the EU institutions, and the Commission in particular, to take urgent and decisive steps to respond to recent actions of the Polish government that constitute an assault on the rule of law in that country. The Law and Justice government has adopted laws relating to the courts, the National Council of the Judiciary and the Supreme Court which, when taken together, substantially undermine judicial independence and subordinate the judiciary to the governing party."

European Greens, Judicial reform in Poland is a serious threat to the rule of law (2 June 2018):

"Vice President Timmermans must show he has the courage and foresight to take firm and swift action to preserve the independence of Poland's judiciary."

Appeal of artists and scientists to the European Commission: Europe! Save Polish Supreme Court! (4 June 2018):

"We believe that it is the highest time to act, therefore we call on the European Commission to take the law on the Polish Supreme Court to the CJEU for violating the fundamental principle of judicial independence, enshrined in the Treaty on European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU."

"We appeal to the European Committee to take without delay the Law on the Polish Supreme Court to the Court of Justice of the European Union in accordance with the provisions of Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and to file the relevant motion for applying interim measures. The history of our continent teaches us that when the foundations of our common liberties are demolished, their restoration becomes extremely difficult."

Joseph Daul. Photo: Twitter/Joseph Daul
Joseph Daul

Statement by the EPP Political Assembly on the rule of law in Poland (5 June 2018):

"EPP remains alert at the fact that Poland is drifting away from the European Union. The Polish government is undermining the legitimate aspirations of the Polish citizens committed to European values and to the European Union. One of our greatest concerns is the independence of the Polish judicial system, with a clear separation of powers and the competences of a superior court. The EPP therefore calls on the European Commission to use all the instruments, including the Court of Justice of the European Union, to make sure that Polish government complies with the European law and standards."

Statement by the Association of Polish Judges "Themis" (6 June 2018):

"The Association of Judges "Themis" fully supports the conclusions of the [ESI-Batory] report stating that the independence of the judiciary in Poland is endangered to such an extent that immediate measures at any possible level are urgently required."

Politico, Paul Taylor, "EU faces Poland test" (7 June 2018):

"This is not just about preserving the rule of law in the largest of the ex-communist member countries that joined the EU in 2004, important though that is. Above all, it is about defending Europe's identity as a community built on shared liberal values … If Polish strongman Jarosław Kaczyński is allowed to get away with replacing an independent judiciary with judges hand-picked for political loyalty, the EU's claims to be a democratic watchdog and not just a glorified free-trade area will look hollow. If ever there was a systemic threat to the rule of law, this is it."

Open letter to Vice-President Timmermans by European lawyers (8 June 2018):

"We urge the Commission to take the immediate necessary steps to initiate the infringement procedure, with a view to enabling the Court of Justice, in case these laws are not reversed, to rule on the matter. 

In addition to the threat to the rule of law in Poland, we believe that the credibility of the European Union as a whole, and its commitment to the rule of law, is at stake."

Resolution by the Assembly of Representatives of Judges of the Regional Court in Lodz (11 June 2018):

"... expresses strong objection against activities of the National Council of the Judiciary, that was set up contrary to article 187 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. The National Council of the Judiciary, instead of upholding the independence of courts and independence of judges, undertakes actions aimed at repression of judges and associations of judges."

Former Polish presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and leaders of the anti-communist opposition. Photo collage: Wyborcza Gazeta
Former Polish presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and leaders of the anti-communist opposition

Joint letter by former Polish presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and leaders of the anti-communist opposition: Europe, defend the rule of law in Poland! (13 June 2018):

"The last administrative level that can defend the law and order in Poland is the European Union. There will be no democratic Poland without the rule of law. There will be no European Union without principles. There will be no freedom without law and order."

Appeal by the Society of Journalists in Poland to the European Comission (June 2018):

"Law and Justice politicians continue to threaten that they will pacify the independent private media. Every day, politicians in our country attack the media and the public prosecutors are coming to be used to intimidate journalists. The Supreme Court is the last place where independent journalism can still be defended."

Gabi Zimmer - Ska Keller - Udo Bullmann - Guy Verhofstadt - Manfred Weber. Photos: Wikipedia Commons
Gabi Zimmer – Ska Keller – Udo Bullmann – Guy Verhofstadt – Manfred Weber

Joint letter by heads of of political groups in the European Parliament: Gabi Zimmer (ChairGUE/NGL), Ska Keller (Co-Chair Greens/EFA), Philippe Lamberts (Co-Chair Greens/EFA), Udo Bullmann (Chair S&D), Guy Verhofstadt (Chair ALDE), Manfred Weber (Chair EPP) to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Vice-President Frans Timmermanns (13 June 2018):

"We, the undersigned, urge you to do whatever possible to protect the independence of the judiciary in Poland. In particular, we urge you to immediately start an infringement procedure, in parallel to the Article 7 procedure, and refer the Polish Supreme Court Act to the European Court of Justice to stop the detrimental reform as soon as possible."

Resolution by the Assembly of Representatives of the Regional Court Judges of the Regional Court in Warsaw (14 June 2018):

"The Assembly is joining the requests calling on the European Commission to refer the Act on the Supreme Court to the Court of Justice of the European Union."

March 2019: Reactions to call for infringement proceedings

December 2019: Support to call on European Commission to ask for interim measures from the CJEU

Open Letter to the President of the European Commission signed by the leading EU law experts and NGO's, 11 December 2019:

As you yourself keep repeating, "there can be no compromise when it comes to respecting the rule of law". This is why we are asking you to promptly submit to the European Court of Justice an application for interim measures in the infringement case C-791/19 Commission v Poland now pending before the Court of Justice. Without interim measures in place, Polish authorities evidently feel free to openly persecute judges who seek to apply and enforce EU law via the two institutions they de facto control: the Disciplinary Chamber and the National Council of the Judiciary.

The time has come to accept we are facing a situation in which EU law has broken down. Interim measures are called for before the situation gets worse and irreparable damage is done."

The letter was given by Polish lawyers to Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova and to Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders during a meeting in Brussels on 12 December.

Polish lawyers meeting EU officials

On 16 December 2019, the European Commission informed that it will analyze the Law and Justice project on disciplining judges in terms of compliance with EU principles of independence in the administration of justice.