The European Union is coming “very close” to triggering Article 7 of the Lisbon treaty against Poland following the passage of new laws condemned by Brussels as threatening the independence of the judiciary.
The laws adopted by the Polish parliament last week would empower the government to appoint 15 of the 22 judges on the National Council and as well as district and appeal court judges. Another bill, which passed the lower house of parliament on Thursday, but is yet to be voted on by the upper house, would grant the Justice minister the power to appoint members of the Supreme Court.
Writing on Twitter, leader of the European People’s Party Manfred Weber said, “It goes beyond doubt now: PiS government is trying to abolish rule of law in Poland. This has to be stopped.”
— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) July 19, 2017
Triggering Article 7 could lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights if it is determined to be in “serious and persistent breach” of EU values.
“These laws considerably increase the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland. Each individual law, if adopted, would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary. Collectively, they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government,” said First Vice President of the Commission Frans Timmerman
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Warsaw and other cities to denounce what they see as another attempt by the PiS government to undermine the judiciary.
Last year PiS was accused of stacking the Constitutional Tribunal with party loyalists to ensure its laws are not challenged by the court, which decides on the constitutionality of legislation. In 2005 the Tribunal struck down the then government’s proposed legislation to publish records revealing the names of people who had had dealings with the secret service in the communist era. Critics slam the current reforms as the culmination of a decade-long vendetta against the courts stemming from this ruling. The government says that the reforms will make the courts more efficient while clearing out supposedly communist sympathisers from the system.