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 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.

The Polish government's assault on its judiciary represents a threat to the EU's legal order and long-term political stability. The EU and national legal orders are now so intertwined as to make up a single patchwork quilt, from which so great a hole cannot be cut, without the whole unravelling.

328 years ago, the great English philosopher John Locke noted that "wherever the law ends, tyranny begins." Poland is at this threshold now. The stakes could not be higher.

Eugeniusz Smolar Eugeniusz Smolar

Support for ESI-Batory proposal: Lech Walesa and others

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

"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."

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

"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."

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

"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."

Joseph Daul. Photo: Twitter/Joseph Daul
Joseph Daul

"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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.2

"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."

"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."