Criticizing the new President of the Polish Constitutional Court: A Crime against the State?

L’état c’est moi. Thus said France’s Louis XIV, and thus seems to think of herself Julia Przyłębska – since the 2016 “coup” against the Constitutional Court in Poland, she is the President of that Court, de facto appointed to the post by the man who runs Poland these days, Jarosław Kaczyński. Last October a Polish oppositional daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, described how she allegedly colluded with the Polish State security in the pursuit of her position at the Constitutional Court. Przyłębska tried to defend herself by using criminal-law instruments otherwise designed to  protect the State. “By attacking me, you attack the State,” she seems to suggest.

Continue Reading →

Judicial “Reform” in Poland: The President’s Bills are as Unconstitutional as the Ones he Vetoed

Five months ago, the Polish President Duda vetoed the PiS laws on the judiciary as unconstitutional. Currently, the President and the PiS are negotiating about a solution to this conflict. But make no mistake: The Presidential vetoes have not triggered any new proposals which would be qualitatively better in terms of consistency with the Constitution than the initial PiS bills that he vetoed. Both the PiS and the President’s proposals are glaringly unconstitutional, though in different ways.

Continue Reading →

Provisional (And Extraordinary) Measures in the Name of the Rule of Law

The showdown was inevitable. At some point, the Court of Justice had to show its teeth and remind the Polish government of its duty to comply with the rule of law and with the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU. For the Member States of the EU, the rule of law is not an option. You either take it or leave it (and thus leave the EU). However, Poland’s late attitude towards EU integration, happily accepting the money from EU funds but showing its back on the fundamental values of the EU, was inevitably going to be confronted, sooner or later, at the Court of Justice. If the showdown was predictable, the surprise has been that it has all happened so quickly, so frontally and… in interim relief procedures in an infringement action against Poland.

Continue Reading →

A Constitution of Fear

A new brand of constitutionalism is on the rise in Poland, defined by a „constitution of fear”. Fear is the leitmotif of the constitution-making process defined by suspicion, exclusion, drive for retribution and settling the scores. As such it reflects the main tenets of populist constitutionalism: distrust in the institutions and rejection of the liberal status quo and culture of self-constraints.

Continue Reading →

Defamation of Justice – Propositions on how to evaluate public attacks against the Judiciary

Public debate is an essential element of a democratic society. While this debate should not spare the judiciary, public attacks against the judiciary of a critical intensity can be observed in several European countries. The most recent example originates from Poland, where, in September 2017, a campaign on bill boards and on the internet was launched in support of the controversial draft acts on judicial reform. The campaign portrays judges as a “privileged cast” and as being corrupt, criminal and incompetent. Having regard to these events, it should be borne in mind that attacks against the judiciary from members of the legislative and executive can pose real threats to judicial independence and the separation of powers. This post takes these considerations as the starting point for a general discussion on how to properly evaluate public criticism of the judiciary. We suggest a frame of reference which seeks to balance the right of free speech and the legitimate interest of the judiciary to not have its legitimacy and independence abridged by political actors. In this regard, we argue that the level of scrutiny must depend on where such criticism comes from.

Continue Reading →

President Duda is Destroying the Rule of Law instead of Fixing it

Were the president of any country to propose acts of law that remove almost half of the members of its supreme court, interrupt the constitutional term of office of the chairperson of such court, give himself the right to appoint a new chairperson of the court, and finally, interrupt the constitutionally defined term of office of a judicial council responsible for appointing judges, the consequences of such manifestly unconstitutional solutions would be massive public opposition and accusations of a coup d’état.  And yet in Poland, where this is exactly what is happening, the President’s proposals are met with understanding.  Why?  Because they are perceived as better than the even more unconstitutional proposals put forward earlier by the ruling party, Law and Justice. 

Continue Reading →

Understanding the Politics of Resentment

Transitioning from „resentment” as an emotion of rejection and critique of the unsatisfactory liberal status quo to the more formalised and institutionalised „politics of resentment” is crucial in our understanding of the ascent of illiberal narratives in Europe. It gives us a chance of harnessing resentment in more conceptual terms and schemes.

Continue Reading →

Mind the Gap! Schwierigkeiten der Rechtsstaatlichkeit in der EU

Seit Ende des Kalten Krieges haben sich sowohl internationale Organisationen als auch nationale Regierungen den Grundsätzen der Rechtsstaatlichkeit verschrieben – allerdings oft nur in Form von Lippenbekenntnissen. Welche Probleme resultieren aus diesem Vorgehen in der EU und vielleicht noch wichtiger: Was sollte dagegen unternommen werden?

Continue Reading →