The European Commission is “very close” to triggering the EU’s Article 7 procedure against Poland — a move that can lead to the suspension of a member country’s voting rights, Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday, Politico informs.
The Commission will also prepare to start infringement proceedings against Warsaw for breaching EU law over its plans to bring the judiciary under government control, Timmermans told reporters.
Timmermans said triggering Article 7 — sometimes described as the EU’s “nuclear option” — was “part of the discussion” on Poland. “Given the latest developments, we are coming very close to triggering Article 7,” he said.
The EU has never used Article 7, which was established more than 17 years ago as a way to ensure “that all EU countries respect the common values of the EU.”
Speaking to reporters at the Commission’s daily briefing, Timmermans said he was concerned about four recent Polish legislative measures, including a law that would revamp the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body that nominates Poland’s top judges, ending the terms of its 15 judges and allowing parliament, where the ruling party Law and Justice party (PiS) has a narrow majority, to nominate their successors.
Should Poland’s new legislative measures be implemented, they would “greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law” and “seriously erode the independence of the judiciary,” Timmermans said, adding that he had “not seen any initiative to re-start the dialogue” with Poland.
“If this all leads to nothing, there is no choice than to set the next step,” he said.
Under EU law, the Commission may determine “that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State” of the EU’s fundamental values. The Commission’s decision would then set in motion a process that could lead to the country losing its right to vote in the Council.
Nevertheless, the loss of voting rights under Article 7 requires the unanimous consent of all EU member countries — and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has stated that he would veto any attempt to sanction Poland.