Members of the European Parliament debated the issues regarding the rule of law in Poland on Tuesday. Representatives of the major factions of the EP criticised Poland for the new legislation concerning the judiciary, while members of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), which is a part of European Conservatives and Reformists faction, claimed that it includes solutions present in the legal systems of some member states.
Although more have applied for a chance to take the floor, less than 30 MEPs were allowed to give speeches during the debate due to the time limitations.
Beata Szydło, a former Polish Prime Minister and Law and Justice MEP, had the longest speech. “Think about why Poland is being criticised for solutions known in your own countries, why we debate competences which were given to (other) national parliaments via treaties,” she said.
“The form of the judiciary is a matter not covered by EU law and involving the EP or European Commission, this issue violates the principle treaty rules of the Union,” she added.
Věra Jourová, the deputy head of the EC responsible for issues regarding the rule of law said that the Commission will fulfil its role of guardian of the treaty and use the anti-violation procedure each time there are cases of a possible violation of EU law. She said that the bill raises concerns, but did not announce any further steps to be taken by the EC.
“We are on the last barricade… the EC has to use all means necessary in order to immediately implement the temporary measures, protecting the Polish, European lifestyle… Imposing this bill means that Poland walks away from those ideals. Please do not turn your back on Europe,” Roberta Metsola, a Maltese MEP of the European People’s Party (EPP) faction said.
Michal Šimečka, a Slovak MEP and the deputy head of the Renew Europe faction, who requested the debate, said that the situation of the rule of law in Poland is worsening. “Different institutions have been taken over, but not the entire Supreme Court. If it happens, there will be no tripartite division of powers in Poland anymore. It is not all about punishing Poland, but protecting the democratic rights of European citizens,” he said.
Andrzej Halicki, a Polish MEP of the Civic Platform (EPP) accused the ruling party of “bullying” judges. “A symbol of recent days in Poland is a partisan, governmental nominee who tore down a resolution, acting not only illegally, but arrogantly suggesting that he will be unpunished. This is how the government wants to treat the constitution, the EU treaties and other obligations and we cannot agree with that,” the Polish MEP declared.
He referred to the recent situation in Olsztyn, northern Poland, when Maciej Nawacki, the head of the local Court and the member of the National Judiciary Council tore down a document adopted by judges calling for a discussion about resolution allowing suspended judge Paweł Juszczyszyn to return to his duties.
Robert Biedroń, the leader of Polish Spring Party (Socialists & Democrats faction) and the candidate for the President of Poland said that the government in Warsaw “is ready to freeze the EU funds or even ‘Polexit’ by its activities.”
“I am shocked how Polish MEPs from the left and centre refer to their own homeland,” Maximilian Krah, a German MEP of the right-wing AFD party commented on statements by some Polish politicians.
The former PM of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, who is an independent MEP also gave his speech. “If tomorrow I go to Poland, I am sure that my immunity will be respected, but if I go to Spain, the authorities would not respect it,” he said, calling for the equal treatment of all EU Member States. Mr Puigdemont is a Catalan separatist who is wanted by Madrid authorities for organising an independence referendum.
Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for Justice said at the end of the debate that the EC will not hesitate to use all mechanisms and means to protect the rule of law. He stressed that the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court still works, despite the resolution of the Court and the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU, which ruled that “it is not a court in the sense of EU law.” “The sentences of the CJEU are valid and have to be respected,” he said.
The bill, signed by the President on February 4, will introduce the possibility of disciplinary action against judges who question the legality and validity of other judges appointed by the reformed National Judicial Council (KRS).