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Poland Reprimanded by the EU
By admin November 24, 2017

The European Union (EU) has worked for a long time to achieve economic and political peace within its member states through the mechanisms of collective action, including threat of loss of funding, privileges or expulsion from the Union. The power of the EU is largely in its capability to orchestrate a concerted action against a single member state so as to deter behavior deemed counter to the union’s mission.

On Wednesday, long simmering tensions between the EU and member state Poland came to head when the EU voted to begin the process that could result in the withholding of Poland’s voting rights. The EU has voted affirmatively to adopt the resolution which will begin the process of invoking Article 7 of the EU’s treaty, which enables the bloc to restrict voting rights on the basis of a member state’s violation of the Union’s human rights standards.

Tensions between the EU and Poland began to escalate two-years ago when a far-right nationalistic party gained majority rule. According to the EU, The Law and Justice party of Poland has restricted judicial independence, which is the reason for the official vote to invoke Article 7 on Wednesday. Though the vote was not scheduled to convene with a nationalistic rally in the Poland that drew 60,000 nationalistic poles, specific events, including the rally were mentioned as instances of violations of democratic and human rights during the EU hearing. Executive members of the EU, including Frand Timmerman, who serves on the European Commission, the executive branch of the Union, criticized the march in which members of openly fascist groups participated.

The EU vote may be more symbolic of a growing schism then indicative of any upcoming action. The affirmative vote to being the invocation of Article 7 only allows for an investigation by the EU civil liberties union into the accused member country. In May of 2017 the same action was taken against Turkey’s government, and the investigation is still ongoing. Despite a criticism from the EU as well as the growing threat of action, the government in Warsaw responded with a clear rebuke by calling the EU’s vote an effort to exert political pressure.

Since gaining power, the majority Law and Justice coalition has made a number of different legislative attempts to hamper Polish democratic institutions. The Party’s efforts to destabilize the judicial branch through legislation in August which would severely concentrate power towards the attorney general’s office, were met with a surprising amount of public backlash, as thousands in Warsaw took to the streets in protest. In an unexpected move of party disobedience, President Andrzej Duda vetoed the proposed legislation instead announcing that within the coming months he would produce his own legislation regarding the judicial branch.

Duda disloyalty to the party platform was surprising but The Law and Justice leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, insisted that despite the veto, he and Duda, who share the same conservative ideology, would persist in enacting radical change.  Duda’s veto may have been less a display of a power beyond the party and more a response to an unpredicted amount of criticism. Following July’s proposed legislation, the EU issued a strong rebuke but backed off its threat regarding the invocation of Article 7, to which the right wing government responded “stay out of our internal politics.” Only a few months later and the EU has formally invoked Article 7 which could lead to economic sanctions and a potential loss of voting rights.

Further Reading:

European Union Chastises Poland, and Draws a Sharp Rebuke

Poland’s President Offers New Path to End Court Crisis

Nationalist March Dominates Poland’s Independence Day

 


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