Democracy under threat in Poland: EU gives Poland three months to address rule of law concerns

17:07 Jul. 27, 2016

EU gives Poland three months to address rule of law concerns

Thousands protested in Gdansk against the current government of the Law and Justice party (PiS), which has taken strident steps towards undermining democracy in Poland, February 28, 2016 (GettyImages Photo)

Polish Parliament introduced changes to the Tribunal, which Brussels found "threatening democracy"

The European Commission on Wednesday, July 27 gave Poland three more months to address the concerns about the rule of law, Reuters reports.

The decision arrived after months of negotiations since Polish Law and Justice party won the last elections and introduced changes on the tribunal and public broadcaster.

Read also: Political decision instead of expert evaluation: Ukrainian diplomat reacts to Sejm resolution

Poland's 1997 constitution gives the tribunal power to block laws approved by parliament and the president. However, the country's Parliament approved laws in December, saying the court verdict must be passed by a two-thirds majority, instead of simple majority.

Brussels said these changes could potentially undermine democracy in the country. The Polish lawmakers removed the new majority system after the pressure from the EU. Europe said, this change "was a step in the right direction", but other measure must be taken since some amendments made things worse.

"New problematic provisions have been introduced in the legislative process on the functioning of the tribunal, raising concerns on the effectiveness of constitutional review," European Commission deputy head Frans Timmermans said.

The Commission urged Poland to publish the tribunals' recent rulings, which has not yet been done, preventing them from going into effect. It specifically mentioned a tribunal ruling that the new changes to its procedures are unconstitutional.

Read also: Polish Sejm recognizes Volhynia massacre as genocide

Polish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU requests, calling them "very premature".   

"The purpose of the current bill on the Constitutional Tribunal, now in the final stages of the legislative process, is to introduce numerous systemic measures that are fully consistent with the European standards relating to the functioning of constitutional judiciary, as well as a number of Venice Commission recommendations", the message said. 

Timmermans, in turn, stated, next step in a disciplinary procedure could lead to the suspension of Warsaw's EU voting rights. Additionally, Polish funds in the European Union could be frozen.

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